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Chronic Stress and Burnout

An inability to perform as a reaction to chronic excessive demands which is often exacerbated by a lack of acknowledgement or appreciation

A persistent imbalance between one’s own abilities and external demands, coupled with a lack of recognition, can lead in the long term to the exhaustion of one’s own resources and to inability to perform. In some cases, the symptoms of burnout are similar to those of depression, such as persistent depression, exhaustion, feelings of failure, subjective overload, reduced performance. It is therefore important to classify exactly whether the syndrome is a depressive illness or the consequences of stressful occupational or extra-occupational activities (e.g. caring for relatives).

Symptoms of burnout

“Burnout“ is not acknowledged as its own diagnostic category under the current classification systems for mental disorders. Therefore, it is still difficult to determine exactly what burnout is.
Signs of a burnout are often shown in the tendency not to be able to “switch off“ even after work and in leisure time, to work a lot of overtime, not to be able to say no to more requests, to have a high perfectionist expectation of one’s own work performance and to put one’s own needs to the side. As a result, the person concerned increasingly comes up against his or her stress limits and falls into a state of permanent subjective overload. On an emotional and cognitive level, fears of failure, fears of losing one’s job and self-conscious thinking can develop over time. The persistent internal stress level can also lead to initial physical complaints such as muscle tension, digestive problems, nausea, weight fluctuations, sleep disorders and increased susceptibility to infection. Over time, one’s own physical, emotional and cognitive resources become depleted until a “breakdown“ of performance occurs. The end of this process often results in a temporary inability to work. In some cases, burnout can lean to depression.

Diagnostics and therapy for burnout

Since burnout doesn to yet have its own diagnostic category and is instead a syndrome of various symptoms, which usually result from an ongoing occupational or extra-occupational overstraining situation, there is no one uniform therapy that applies for all individuals. Nevertheless, it is important to have the severity of these symptoms professionally clarified, particularly when the person has an inabiltiy to perform and is experiencing persistent symptoms of stress. Particular attention should be paid to finding out whether any other physical or mental illness might be the cause.

If the cause of burnout cause is not due to any impending occupational pressures, short-term psychotherapy can help to react more appropriately to the current stress factors, to learn strategies for stress reduction and to apply them effectively in the work context and to distinguish oneself better from external requirements, taking one’s own needs into account.

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