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To put it simply, burnout is "when you can't any more". Prolonged levels of chronic stress have become unbearable, things have become too much for you and you are overwhelmed. You cannot handle simple tasks any more. It might feel as if your main power switch has been short-circuited and burnt out. 

Burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion which does not allow a person to continue living a normal, happy, active life. Most often, people burn out at their work. However, burnout quite likely is a signal that one's personal life is suffering too.  

There is no official definition of burnout. Burnout is not a medical diagnosis, it is not an illness. Burnout is not recognised as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, nor in the global list of diseases, the ICD (see below). 


In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an "occupational phenomenon", stressing that it is not classified as a medical condition. 

The WHO limits burnout to the workplace, however, there are many broader definitions of burnout. For example, parents staying at home raising children might also experience burnout. 

The symptoms of burnout may include, for example:

  • fatigue

  • difficulty to concentrate

  • lack of motivation

  • feeling of being overwhelmed

  • headaches

  • dizziness

  • sleep disorders

  • nervous tension, anxiety

  • gastro-intestinal disorders

  • heart palpitations

It seems that people who are highly motivated, with high idealism and perfectionism are more susceptible to burnout, as well as those who overwork, who do not receive appreciation or have little control over the outcome of their work. Self-employed people, top-level managers as well as employees burn out. Millenials seem to be quite susceptible to burnout. Burnout is not limited to adults. Teenagers and children can suffer it too. Women seem to burn out more often than men. 

Burnout affects a large percentage of the population in the industrialised world. In 2019, the World Economic Forum estimates ranged from 30 % in France and Germany to 50 % in the USA to 57 % in the UK. We started talking about a burnout pandemic in connection with the Covid-19 disease. In 2022, Forbes called burnout an international crisis - 20,000 people in 11 countries around the globe were polled and 50% of employees and 53% of managers felt burnt out at work. A study from 2022 found more than half of 30,000 Europeans from 14 countries were on the verge of burnout or beyond. It looks like burnout will continue to be a serious phenomenon in the 21st century.


Beside affecting our health and well-being, burnout also represents a serious economic issue. It carries a high cost - for those who lose their source of income as a result of burning out, as well as for companies who lose their employees' work performance and ultimately the employees themselves, and for the health care systems.  

Burnout carries a message to our industrialised civilisation. It is a red light telling us that we cannot continue living the stressful way we have been until now. It signifies an end of one chapter of our lives, opening the door to healing, giving us a chance to adjust and live differently, better and more in tune with who we really are, our true self. These positive changes which we undergo will benefit everyone around us and, hopefully, enable us to save our beautiful living planet too.



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