Depression can be present before burnout begins .
Depression can arise during burnout.. coincidentally or related.
In the latter stages of severe burnout, depression is a feature.
What this means is that some people are prescribed antidepressants ‘for’ burnout.
Burnout does not reverse on antidepressants. Nor does it go away after a holiday .
Yet a short break away from work &/or antidepressants are often the ‘treatment’.
That doesn’t make holidays or antidepressants bad.... just that burnout is unlikely to improve with those two ‘interventions’ primarily because the causes of burnout are not depression or lack of holiday.
In order to reverse the suffering of burnout one needs to look at the multiple and unique blend of things contributing to that persons burnout.
Antidepressants may be indicated IF there is clear evidence of depression but.... that will treat the depression NOT the burnout.
Similarly a good long break from work can assist recovery from burnout but most normal holidays are simply not long enough .
If no changes are made to the job or how the person copes ....most people with burnout will dread going on holiday and... returning from holiday.
And just to confuse things further - some researchers have said that burnout is a form of depression. The verdict is out on this for now but at the end of the day - what we call burnout is somewhat academic - the point is - it needs to be addressed and ousted from our workplaces and our lives.
Poetry can encapsulate feelings and create pictures in few words.
We love poems about burnout - especially when there are before and after versions
This one is a before ( as in before someone tackles their burnout).
Burnout has eaten my life
Destroyed all things with my wife
Created a whole load of strife
Now where did I put that knife
Albeit short - this is quite a worrying poem.
This person may be hinting at self harm - and even in jest this needs to be taken seriously.
Not all burnout poems are quite this dark but severe burnout can certainly take people to a very hopeless place.
If you would like to share a poem with us about your current burnout please use the contact form
It can be cathartic to do so as well as a beginning to facing up to it and moving out of denial.
....a range of effects on the human body and mind, from a series of overworking related causes where an obvious lack of mental wellness is the outcome.
This definition immediately turns ones attention to "how can we look at the whole person and the big picture as well as address the causes and bring more wellness to work?" rather than "how do we treat this person's mental illness / what is wrong with THEM?".
This seems an altogether fairer and more equitable way of pointing out that burnout is not a feature of happy well supported people who are in the right jobs and treated with respect.
As I keep labouring.... burnout arises due to a combination of factors.
... but on its own I don't believe it is a mental illness but I do believe it is a condition or perhaps a "syndrome"
Deal with the causes and elevate those elements of work that bring joy and the burnout will ease and eventually go away. Sounds too simple to be true. The challenge is..... it is simple but it is not easy to get to the bottom of the complex interactions that foster burnout in the workplace.
Anyone is at risk of mental illness throughout their life - it is the human condition.
Anyone can suffer burnout if the conditions are ripe for its emergence.
So we must all be responsible for being aware of it, wary and looking for how to address it.
Who is affected when someone suffers from burnout?
The answer is - quite a lot of people.
Their bosses and employers
No one wins when burnout bubbles away. Least of all of course - the person suffering with it.
I have noticed that some people are extremely resistant to admitting they have burnout despite the obvious damage it is doing to them. There are lots of possible reasons for this which I will cover in a future post. But if a burnout sufferer's friends, family and colleagues are well informed about the causes, effects, natural progression and potential healing routes - then there is much more of a chance that the sufferer will access the help they need.
It is quite possible that we are all at risk of getting burnout. This means everyone needs to know just a little bit more about burnout than is the case right now.
Whether you have burnout or know someone who does - try watching our "Burnout - where do I start?" video - its only 4 minutes and can be accessed either on our Linked In page or go back to the home page. Watching it with someone else is even better as this can create a dialogue - whether it is with a burnout sufferer and their family, a manager and their colleague or an occupational health expert and their patient.
Strictly speaking this is old news yet the sheer reach of burnout has blown me away and continues to do so ( and in reading this blog it might do the same for you - which is good). I have research from almost every profession, every continent and most countries each one highlighting burnout in their own small area. However few people are linking this all up. Even the World Health Organisation is being somewhat slow in identifying the alarming trends in burnout and the suffering caused by it. Quite how they can classify internet addiction but not fully classify burnout is beyond me.
Well I AM linking it all up.
Burnout is affecting public, private and charitable organisations and workers.
It is affecting people in developed and developing countries ( yes sadly we in the West appeared to have exported the condition).
The percentage of people suffering it is showing no signs of reducing and in fact appears to be rapidly increasing especially in some professions. It is either a precursor of or a contributing factor for or a confusing coexisting outcome in many mental health conditions.
Who do I think is to blame? Nobody.... and everybody.
Unwittingly we are all contributing to it.
Thus we must all take responsibility for fixing it.
There is a very sad thing about burnout.
It is entirely preventable.
So why do so many people suffer from it?
And why do organisations and individuals put up with it?
This blog entry asks you only to ponder these questions and also this one.....
If you had a huge wart on your nose that was entirely preventable or curable - would you not rush to get it sorted and take whatever steps required to deal with it?
I'd guess you would.
I rest my case.
When I started a career planning business in 1990 less than 5% of our clients were what I now know were "burnout" sufferers ( the term burnout wasn't in common usage back then although it was first coined by Freudenberger in 1974).
What happened over the intervening 28 years? The percentage has gone to 40%...... and climbing.
Surely it is just doctors I hear you say. No….the percentage of people in work with burnout is now in almost unbelievable figures and is across professions and industries. With similar reports coming from around the world is clear that it has already gone way beyond just the medical profession ( easy to blame the NHS), way beyond the UK ( easy to blame Brexit) and similarly - way beyond something we can all keep ignoring.
So what to do about it?
The good news is that there are some simple solutions to this very complex, pervading and apparently intractable problem. The bad news is - despite that, both individuals and organisations have a propensity to deny and avoid the burnout elephant in the room. It is as if everyone knows burnout exists - journalists dine out on it, researchers make careers on it - but few are entirely clear what the true extent (and it is huge!) of the economic damage from burnout amounts to, nor the difference between it and a "bit of stress requiring just a few days sick leave". As a result burnout is lurking, at a workplace near you, to an extent .....under the radar.
Part of the problem is that people fear admitting it. I can understand this fear. When one doesn't know the full information it is very easy to find the topic of burnout extremely intimidating with both individuals and employers terrified of "taking the lid off Pandora's box” and suffering repercussions as a result.
This is what Burnout Geese is all about - demystifying burnout. Yes it is a big problem and a growing one - but there are things each and every one of us can do to turn burnout around - for ourselves, our colleagues and our society.