Herbert J. Freudenberger — was a German-born American psychologist. Though Freudenberger had many jobs during his life, including practitioner, editor, theoretician, and author, his most significant contribution is in the understanding and treatment of stress, chronic fatigue and substance abuse. Freudenberger was one of the first to describe the symptoms of exhaustion professionally and perform a comprehensive study of " burnout ".

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NCBI Bookshelf. More and more people are missing work due to burnout. But is this set of symptoms a clearly-defined illness? How is burnout different from depression? Nowadays, the term is not only used for these helping professions, or for the dark side of self-sacrifice. It seems it can affect anyone, from stressed-out careerists and celebrities to overworked employees and homemakers.

Surprisingly, there is no clear definition of what burnout really is. This also makes it impossible to say how common it is. Various figures appear in the press; some German health insurance companies say that up to nine million people are affected in Germany.

These figures should, however, be met with caution: There are no reliable scientific data about how many people have burnout in Germany. A stressful lifestyle can put people under extreme pressure, to the point that they feel exhausted, empty, burned out, and unable to cope.

Stress at work can also cause physical and mental symptoms. Possible causes include feeling either permanently overworked or under-challenged, being under time pressure, or having conflicts with colleagues.

Extreme commitment that results in people neglecting their own needs may also be at the root of it. Problems caused by stress at work are a common reason for taking sick leave. But sometimes changes in the working environment and more concrete support in everyday life can already help with things like problems at the workplace or the stress of caring for ill relatives. Exhaustion is a normal reaction to stress, and not a sign of disease.

So does burnout describe a set of symptoms that is more than a "normal" reaction to stress? And how is it different from other mental health problems? Experts have not yet agreed on how to define burnout. That is not the case with burnout.

Physical illnesses may also cause burnout-like symptoms. Burnout is considered to have a wide range of symptoms. There is no general agreement about which of those are part of burnout and which are not. But all definitions given so far share the idea that the symptoms are thought to be caused by work-related or other kinds of stress. One example of a source of stress outside of work is caring for a family member.

There are no well-studied methods with which to diagnose burnout. There are various questionnaires for self-assessment. But this questionnaire was originally developed for research purposes, not for use by doctors. Online questionnaires on the risk of burnout are not suitable for determining whether someone has burnout or whether the symptoms are caused by something else.

The symptoms that are said to be a result of burnout can generally also have other causes, including mental or psychosomatic illnesses like depression , anxiety disorders or chronic fatigue syndrome. But physical illnesses or certain medications can cause symptoms such as exhaustion and tiredness too. So it is important to consider other possible causes together with a doctor, and not to conclude you have burnout straight away. Certain symptoms that are considered to be typical for burnout also occur in depression.

These include. Because the symptoms are similar, some people may be diagnosed with burnout although they really have depression. So people should be very careful not to self- diagnose burnout too quickly. This could lead to unsuitable treatment. For instance, someone with depression might be advised to take a longer vacation or time off work.

But if people with depression do so it might actually make things worse because the kind of help they need is very different, such as psychological treatment or medication. Some characteristics of burnout are very specific, though. For instance, in burnout most of the problems are work-related. Other typical symptoms of depression include. These are not regarded as typical symptoms of burnout.

But burnout may increase the risk of someone getting depression. IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services. Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods. Turn recording back on. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Search term. Depression: What is burnout?

Is burnout a medical condition? What are the signs and symptoms of burnout? There are three main areas of symptoms that are considered to be signs of burnout: Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and do not have enough energy.

Physical symptoms include things like pain and stomach or bowel problems. Alienation from work-related activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.

Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity. How is burnout diagnosed? What is the difference between burnout and depression? These include extreme exhaustion,.

Unipolare Depression. Version October 4, Differentialdiagnostik des Burnout-Syndroms. HTA-Bericht Cologne; In this Page. Informed Health Links. More about Depression. Overview Learn more: Signs of depression Learn more: Types of depression Learn more: Depression in children and teenagers Learn more: Treatments for depression Learn more: Depression: How effective are antidepressants?

Learn more: Depression: How effective is psychological treatment? Learn more: Experiences with antidepressants Learn more: Strategies for family and friends Research summaries: Can sports and exercise help? Research summaries: Can relaxation techniques help? Research summaries: Can St. Research summaries: What can help with depression and coronary artery disease?

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