Work addiction and burnout

What is burnout?

Burnout is defined in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11) by the World Health Organization as follows:

“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Exhaustion is the core symptom of burnout and indicates the overall feeling of being overwhelmed and fatigued by work duties. More and more research suggests that it is strictly related to depression. There are numerous resources on burnout that you can find on the web, including the World Health Organization web page

They provide some information on how to recognize burnout, its possible causes and consequences, and how to handle it.

Causes of burnout

Research shows that most important causes of burnout include:

  • high workload that makes it difficult to meet the demands of job,
  • lack of control at work: when you cannot influence decisions that affect your work, you have limited professional autonomy, and you do not have access to the resources necessary to do an effective job,
  • lack of rewards: lack of recognition and financial, institutional, or social rewards,
  • community: lack of good relationships with other people at work, lack of support from supervisors and colleagues, lack of trust, and conflicts at work,
  • lack of fairness: when you perceive decisions at work as being unfair,
  • values: when the goals and values of organization are in conflict with your own goals and values.

Prevention and coping with burnout

The recommendations concerning prevention and coping with burnout include:

  • changing work patterns, e.g., working less, taking more breaks, avoiding overtime work, balancing work with the rest of your life,
  • developing coping skills, e.g., cognitive restructuring, conflict resolution, time management,
  • obtaining social support both from colleagues and family,
  • utilizing relaxation strategies, e.g., mindfulness practice,
  • promoting good health and fitness, taking care of good sleep,
  • developing a better self-understanding by various self-analytic techniques, counseling, or therapy.

Its meaning for work and general functioning

In some countries, e.g., Sweden, burnout is a recognized condition for which individuals may seek health leave. In most countries, however, it is not yet officially recognized as a medical condition. Nevertheless, it is a serious health problem that may contribute significantly to your everyday functioning, and you may want to seek professional help to cope with it.

Its meaning for WORK ADDICTION

Burn-out is closely related to work addiction and may be its major consequence.

Work addiction is related to higher stress associated with work, as well as stress outside work environment, e.g., due to family problems. Individuals addicted to work do not manage their work stress effectively which may result in burnout. Work addiction is also associated with recognized causes of burnout such as high workload, lack of social support, conflicts at work, deviant behavior at work, counterproductive work behavior, and incivility meaning rude, unsociable and impolite behavior.

Prospective studies showed that work addiction predicts mental distress one year later, as well as exhaustion six months later. It means that if you are addicted to work then, with time, the levels of your stress may rise and lead to exhaustion, which is the core symptom of burnout.

However, more studies are needed to understand how and when work addiction increases burnout.

The bottom line

Work addiction may cause severe burnout, which may yield you professionally and personally incapacitated. It is better to prevent it with proper stress reduction solutions than suffer its consequences and treat it. Recovery from a full-blown burnout syndrome may be very challenging and take years.