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Burnout – interview with Prof. Wulf Rössler, MD, MSc

06.09.2017 - Interviews, Mental health

Burnout is on the rise. It is a growing problem for the modern workplace, having an impact on organisational costs, as well as employee health and well-being. These include possible long-term health risks and, due to its contagious nature, a toxic working environment of low morale, scapegoating, and increased office politics.

The annual cost of burnout to the global economy has been estimated to be £255 billion. Such costs have led to the World Health Organisation predicting a global pandemic within a decade.

Prof. Wulf Rössler, MD, MSc, member of the Board of Directors at The Kusnacht Practice, discusses burnout and the signs to look out for.

What is burnout?

The concept of burnout has evolved over the last 50 years ago. It was first brought up by a New York psychiatrist, Herbert Freudenberg, who observed that people who work in psychosocial services seemed to be quite exhausted. He elaborated on this and it has spread all over the world, mainly in industrialised countries. If we talk about burnout, we always refer to some kind of workload stress.

Is it more common nowadays?

Actually, this is what we expect because the pressure in our work life has become extreme. Naturally where there is more stress, there is also more stress on mental health.

What distinguishes burnout from everyday stress?

People experience most stress at work, therefore we relate burnout exclusively to workload stress.

What symptoms are people displaying?

The symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms of depression. They are mostly not as severe and are related to their environment much more than people suffering from depression. In principal, we find the same symptoms: tiredness, lack of interest, bad sleep, awakening during the night.

How do you treat burnout?

We approach burnout with psychotherapy. There are different approaches, but we always look very closely to the triggers that are stressing those people and try to change their environment as well. People have to change as well. If you always overwork, they must learn that there are boundaries even for the strongest personalities.

Does medication play a part?

It can, if needed. We combine the therapy with anti-depressants, mostly to secure sleep but also to provide relieve during the day.

What are the signs to look out for?

  1. Exhaustion- a clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical.
  2. Lack of motivation
  3. Frustration, cynicism and other negative emotions
  4. Cognitive problems -inability to pay attention or concentrate.
  5. Slipping job performance
  6. Interpersonal problems at home and at work
  7. Not taking care of yourself
  8. Preoccupied with work … even when you are not at work
  9. Generally decreased satisfaction – with your career and home life
  10. Health problems – over a long period of time, serious chronic stress can create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression and obesity.

If you feel like you can relate to any of these warning signs, please contact us at The Kusnacht Practice to discuss your situation in more detail.

Prof. Wulf Rössler, MD, MSc, Member of Board of Directors, The Kusnacht Practice