Burnout: See the differences between the syndrome, stress and depression | Science and Health

The WHO explains that burnout “refers specifically to phenomena related to the professional context and should not be used to describe experiences in other areas of life”.

The change in the definition of the syndrome makes it a phenomenon linked to work, not to the worker.

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As a result, burnout began to be treated in different ways. Workers now have the same labor and social security rights provided for in other work-related illnesses.

A survey of more than 30,000 workers from 31 countries, commissioned by Microsoft for The Work Trend Index series and released in March last year, showed that:

  • 54% of respondents feel they are overworking
  • 39% report a state of exhaustion
  • 41% think about quitting

In Brazil, a survey carried out in 2020 showed that 83% of health professionals show signs of burnout syndrome. the syndrome appeared in 79% of physicians; 74% of nurses; and 64% of nursing technicians.

The data also showed that the younger the professional, the greater the chance of burnout, and that the syndrome appears more in women. (see video below).

Below are the main characteristics of the three problems:

  • Burnout: it is a syndrome resulting from chronic stress and necessarily originates in the work environment;
  • Depression: it is a chronic psychiatric illness that affects people of all ages;
  • Stress: it is an automatic physiological reaction of the body to circumstances that require behavioral adjustments.

Understand what these conditions are, their symptoms and treatments:

Necessarily work-related, burnout is a disorder that develops gradually due to mismatches between work and the individual. It affects men and women who experience constant or prolonged stress in the work environment.

The syndrome can be due to an excessive workload, lack of recognition from the bosses or a deep tiredness, for example, which is not resolved only with rest or vacations. Other factors that can trigger burnout are:

  • Excess of responsibilities
  • Little autonomy to make decisions
  • Lack of fairness in the work environment
  • Value conflicts at work

Extreme tiredness, irritability, sudden mood swings: The symptoms of burnout are often similar to other health conditions like anxiety and depression.

The main effects of burnout are:

  • Excessive physical and mental fatigue
  • frequent headache
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Change in heartbeat

Because it has symptoms similar to those of depression and anxiety, the syndrome is often not correctly identified.

In Brazil, the Ministry of Health states that the burnout syndrome “can result in a state of deep depression and, therefore, it is essential to seek professional support when the first symptoms appear.”

The three main elements that characterize burnout and differentiate it from other conditions are:

  • Exhaustion: the feeling that the person is going beyond their limits and deprived of resources, physical or emotional, to deal with situations. Even vacations or leaves of absence for health reasons do not solve the apparent tiredness.
  • Skepticism: the constant negative reaction in the face of difficulties, the lack of interest in the work, or even the lack of concern with the results. Skepticism is a form of insensitivity, which can be aggressive even towards friends and family.
  • ineffectiveness: the feeling of incompetence, which occurs when the person always feels disqualified, unrecognized and unproductive.

Two results of the presence of these elements are “absenteeism”, when the person begins to miss work too much, or “presenteeism”, which occurs when the individual goes to work but is mentally absent or thinking distant from the activities he performs.

Drauzio Varella explains the Burnout Syndrome

Drauzio Varella explains the Burnout Syndrome

Like other psychological problems, burnout needs to be treated by a psychiatrist and followed up by a psychologist. According to the Ministry of Health, “the diagnosis is made by psychiatrists and psychologists after clinical analysis of the patient and they are the health professionals indicated to guide the best form of treatment, as appropriate”.

Psychotherapy is the most common treatment, but the psychiatrist may also prescribe medications such as antidepressants and anxiolytics.

Part of the treatment is to change the working conditions that have driven the person to deep exhaustion. Regular physical activity, leisure activities, spending more time with family and friends, and exercises to relieve tension, for example, are also commonly recommended.

Depression is a chronic psychiatric illness that can affect people of all ages, including children and the elderly. According to the WHO, more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from the disease, which can be a very serious health condition, especially when it is classified as moderate or severe. In worst-case scenarios, depression can lead to suicide, which is the second leading cause of death for 15-29 year olds worldwide.

Several factors can contribute to the onset of depression. The three most common are:

  • genetic predisposition
  • traumatic events
  • chronic stress

Dr. Ana Escobar, columnist for G1: Burnout syndrome is a physical and mental exhaustion

Dr. Ana Escobar, columnist for G1: Burnout syndrome is a physical and mental exhaustion

These elements can cause a decrease in the levels of serotonin, which is an essential neurotransmitter in communication between neurons. It helps to produce feelings of well-being that are vital for the proper functioning of the body.

When the body identifies the lack of serotonin in the brain, transmissions of electrical impulses are impaired and, over time, chain reactions arise.

A shortage of the neurotransmitter can interfere with an individual’s mood, sleep, eating, sex life and productivity.

  • loss of pleasure
  • Irritability
  • sleep disorder
  • Tiredness
  • Unwillingness to do things or extra effort to do things
  • Easy crying or apathy
  • Lack of memory and concentration

Treatment for depression, according to the WHO, is divided into levels. For early cases of depression or for people with mild depression, psychosocial treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are recommended.

Antidepressants are effective for moderate and severe depression. However, physicians and patients should be aware of adverse effects associated with medications, such as nausea, dizziness, sexual dysfunction, and weight gain.

In the case of children and adolescents, care must be even greater. In a British study published in the medical journal “The Lancet”, about 14 antidepressants ineffective in children were identified, which can even be dangerous if used in childhood.

Medications for depression are also prescribed to counter the chemical imbalance in the brain by restoring serotonin production.

The first effects of the medication may take a few weeks to appear and the full treatment lasts at least a year. It is extremely important to follow the treatment correctly to achieve a positive result.

Burnout and the Employer’s Responsibility — Photo: Disclosure

Stress, unlike depression, is the way the body reacts to different situations of great emotional stress. It can also affect people of all ages.

When the body is stimulated, the message reaches the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which sends it to a gland just below. It produces hormones that travel through the bloodstream to other glands above the kidneys. They produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

Cortisol release is important for maintaining survival, but it must occur at the right dosage. When it peaks, it can cause problems.

Cortisol is considered the chronic stress hormone because, unlike adrenaline, which causes reactions and goes away, it stays in the body. Cortisol inflames the body, which will respond in various organs: brain, intestine, fat cells.

Even positive situations can cause stress, but in these cases the release of hormones tends to stimulate the individual. In the case of negative situations, the emotional effect can be quite harmful to health.

The main causes of this type of stress are:

  • Conflicts in the family environment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Family health problems
  • Difficulties at work or lack thereof
  • toxic relationships
  • Divorce
  • Excess of responsibilities

An online survey carried out by the Institute of Psychology and Stress Control (IPCS) with 2,195 Brazilians showed that 34% of respondents had a level of stress considered excessive. Diseases linked to the nervous and digestive systems, in some cases, can be related to stress.

Although it does not always lead to disorders, continuous and intense stress can be an indication of psychiatric disorders.

“Stress itself is not a disease, but it can be the trigger. Stress is simply the adaptation that a person faces because of an unforeseen situation, such as an unwanted promotion, for example”, explains Ana Maria Rossi.

The problem starts when these stressful situations cannot be overcome.

“When this negative situation is very prolonged or very frequent, it starts to have sequelae, which can turn into diseases”, says the psychologist.

According to the American Heart Society, eating, smoking or drinking to calm down, working too much, putting off tasks and sleeping less or more can be the first symptoms of stress.

In cases of ongoing stress, some physical symptoms may emerge over time. The most common are allergies, skin diseases, autoimmune diseases, reflux, intestinal diseases, insomnia, urinary tract infection and increased symptoms in heart patients.

When the person is already in a stressful situation, the orientation is to identify the main stressful fact and solve it.

The main form of treatment for stress is the prevention of situations that can cause great emotional stress. The ways to do this prevention are the most diverse and each person finds the best way to relax.

However, some tips are valid for everyone, such as eating healthy foods and, mainly, physical activity, which is responsible for releasing the pleasure hormones: endorphin, serotonin and dopamine. These hormones improve mood and bring a sense of well-being.

See more tips to avoid stress:

  • Breathe deeply
  • do physical activities
  • Invest in manual work
  • practice meditation
  • Sleep well
  • Eat healthy

According to the Ministry of Health, the Unified Health System (SUS) is equipped to offer assistance to patients with mental suffering or disorder, including burnout syndrome and depression. In the public network, Psychosocial Care Centers (Caps) are the most suitable places for treatment.

About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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