What is burnout?
Just a few years ago, burnout was considered to be a special problem for teachers, nurses and managers. This emotional, physical and mental burnout can, however, affect anyone who suffers from severe stress. But what exactly is burnout and how do you recognise it?
Burnout is described as a chronic, emotional and physical state of exhaustion. People affected are frequently overworked or overwhelmed and suffer from permanent stress and aggravation. Burnout syndrome develops gradually so that the first warning signs such as sleep disorders are frequently overlooked. The disease usually only becomes noticeable when permanent exhaustion, listlessness and fear of failure result in a significant deterioration in performance at work.
This phenomenon was first described in the 1970s by the American psychoanalyst Herbert J. Freudenberger. The name of the syndrome essentially means "to burn out" and refers to a novel by the author Graham Greene. In "A Burnt-Out Case" he describes how an architect who is fed up of his job dared to escape from his life. The term burnout was also used by Freudenbergs' colleagues after he discovered it and the term became, thus, recognised worldwide.
In the past few decades, the number of people affected by burnout has increased significantly. According to estimates, around 30 % of all employees are at risk of developing burnout. This is primarily ascribed to changed work situations in many industries. Nowadays, each employee must take on more responsibility and simultaneously perform better. The stress resulting from this favours the development of burnout.