Burnout: what are the symptoms - expert know how

Burnout is more and more frequent in our society due to our daily life routines and rhythm. We have interviewed Dr. Michael Huber former consultant in neurology and psychosomatic medicine at the university hospitals of Cologne and Mainz to know more about this syndrome.

Burnout syndrome is a mental state that is far more frequent than what could be thought at first. Due to our schedules and lifestyles, we are all prone to suffer it and for this reason it is very important to understand what are its symptoms and ways to prevent it or treat it.

Is there a simple test to determine burnout syndrome?

Two tests for burnout syndrome are available in German-speaking countries: MBI (Maslach Burnout Inventory, 1992) and BOSS (Burnout Screening Scales, 2009). From a scientific standpoint, however, these tests are problematic. There is still no standardised, universally valid procedure for making a diagnosis of burnout syndrome. It is thus advisable that people do not conduct these tests themselves; rather, they should find a specialist for detailed individual risk assessment. A specialist can provide a diagnosis and check for other serious clinical symptoms as well as give recommendations for individual prophylaxis and treatment.

Is there an online test or do I need to find a doctor?

The BOSS test is not available to the public. There are two German versions of the MBI available to the public. They have been freely translated from the Dutch original.

Is the test covered by health insurance or do I need to pay for it myself? How much does such a test cost?

Because the tests are not widely in use, a specialist should be consulted. Health insurance companies usually cover the costs for medical diagnosis of symptoms such as those associated with burnout syndrome.

What are the most important symptoms of burnout?

Burnout was originally characterized as a physical and mental state developed by individuals who are very engaged in their work (who “burn” for something) and who have taken on more than they can handle individually (1974).

Its three main symptoms are:

1. Emotional exhaustion

2. Personality changes – disaffection, distance and cynical attitude towards others

3. Poor subjective assessment of performance.

It is not certain whether these are primary symptoms or the result of a coping process in an attempt to adjust to changes.

Are there various stages of burnout?

The concept of burnout describes both a process (to burn out) and a state (burned out), and hence can be thought of as a constantly changing series of stages. Burnout is seen as a risk factor between persistent overworking and mental and physical illness. The occurrence of burnout syndrome signals an increased risk for secondary disorders from work-related stress such as hypertonia, tinnitus, depressions, anxiety and addiction.

Dr. Michael Huber

Dr. Michael Huber has worked for more than 20 years as an attending physician in neurology and psychosomatic medicine for university hospitals in West Germany. An experienced therapist trainer and psychoanalyst, he has specialised in recent years on supervising psychological and workplace-related change for those with management positions in economics, government and institutions.

He uses coaching methods based on his experience in psychological therapy, neurology and complementary medical fields. He believes that such experience can be used to give healthy, working-age individuals help when in stressful situations at work or in their private lives. He provides strategies for finding orientation, coming up with new solutions or making major life changes.

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