World Health Organization Updates 'Burnout' in Its List of Medical Diagnoses

iStock/PeopleImages / iStock/PeopleImages

Long hours at work can often leave people feeling spread too thin, with feelings of fatigue, anxiety, and depression. They might casually inform friends or family they feel "burned out" with little more said about it.

Now, physicians may be jotting down the term in medical records with increasing frequency. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "burnout," already a classifiable diagnosis for billing purposes, is getting a more definitive description of signs and symptoms to help physicians identify the problem.

Burnout is part of WHO's International Classification of Diseases, also known as the ICD-11, which lists the medical codes for a long list of possible diagnoses. The ICD-11 categorizes it as an "occupational phenomenon," not a medical condition. It also appeared in the ICD-10. The ICD-11 entry has been updated to incorporate a more specific definition involving unmanaged stress in the workplace. To meet the criteria for burnout, a patient should be experiencing symptoms including energy depletion, feeling mentally detached from their job, and complaining of reduced productivity.

Burnout applies specifically to employment. A patient could not, for example, be diagnosed with parental burnout or relationship burnout.

A physician faced with a patient experiencing burnout will likely recommend treatment similar to other stress-relates complaints: exercise, relaxation techniques, and possibly support groups.

In their latest revision to the ICD-11, WHO also classified the parameters for diagnosing a gaming disorder, or an addictive behavior disorder related to video games. The ICD-11 will formally take effect in January 2022.

[h/t CNN]