Burnout — generally understood as reduced interest and productivity in one’s work precipitated by overwork — can now be classified as a diagnosable condition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which included it in ICD-11, the organization’s diagnostic manual. The criteria listed for diagnosing burnout are, according to CNN:
1) Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
2) Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
3) Reduced professional efficacy
The manual notes that before diagnosing someone with burnout, they should rule out other disorders with comparable symptoms, like adjustment disorder, anxiety or depression, and it’s easy to see why — the symptoms listed are likely familiar to anyone who’s experienced even passing depression. Hating (or even being very sick of) one’s job and feeling depressed can operate in a feedback loop, and early burnout researchers warned that the difficult inherent to making that distinction might prevent the recognition of burnout as a disease.
But in our increasingly career-as-calling culture, which encourages dedication as the ultimate asset, which calls employees “family”, which fails to provide them with benefits, and which provides “unlimited vacation” but expects employees to take less time off than ever, burnout has become an epidemic. How real-life diagnosis will work — and what, if anything, can be done when it is — remains to be seen, but admitting you (“you” being American corporate culture) have a problem is the first step toward recovery.