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WHO And Mayo Clinic Speak Out About Workplace Burnout

It's official: The World Health Organization ("WHO") now recognizes burnout as a formal medical diagnosis. In contrast, the Mayo Clinic (a nationally known medical facility, here in the States) has announced that burnout is not a formal medical diagnosis.

Formalities aside, both entities recognize workplace burnout as a matter that is a growing concern, and deserving of increased attention. Recent events would certainly seem to bear that out, though it may take some time before science catches up with reality.

In what is known as ICD-11 (the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases)-- the section of the WHO report that addresses medical problems related to employment or unemployment, provides that medical doctors can now diagnose patients with burnout, if they report the following symptoms:

1. Feeling of energy depletion, or exhaustion;
2. Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings a negativism or cynicism related to one's job; or
3. Reduced professional efficacy.

Before making a diagnosis of workplace burnout, doctors are cautioned to first rule out other recognized adjustment disorders, like anxiety, or other mood disorders. In addition, the WHO recommendation cautions that any such diagnosis should be specifically limited to the work environment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, however, burnout is not recognized as a medical diagnosis, although it recognizes that burnout can affect one's physical and mental health. In a recent release entitled "Job burnout: How to spot it and take action", members of staff identified a number of symptoms that we can self-identify, by asking ourselves:

1. Have we become critical, or cynical, at work;
2. Do we drag our self to work, and have trouble getting started;
3. Have we become irritable or impatient with co-workers or clients;
4. Do we lack the energy to be consistently productive;
5. Do we find it hard to concentrate;
6. Do we lack satisfaction from our achievements;
7. Do we feel disillusioned about our job;
8. Are we using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better, or to simply not     feel at all;
9. Have our sleep habits changed;
10. Are we troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems?

According to Mayo Clinic staff members, if we answer "yes" to any of the above-questions, we may be suffering from workplace burnout, and should consider talking to a doctor or mental health provider.

Of particular interest to me is the list of recommended actions identified by staff members, to begin addressing workplace burnout. Specifically, the list identifies mindfulness and meditation as things that one might pursue, in an effort to ameliorate the effects of workplace burnout--imagine that, staff members at the Mayo Clinic recommending mindfulness and meditation!

The release concludes with advice that we "keep an open mind, as you consider the options". I'll go them one better-- let's keep an open mind, and do something about it.


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