Symptom Checker

When I’ve talked to people about Madame Papillon, some have asked “but how do you know if you’re in burnout?” Apart from saying that if you feel your (work) life has just crumbled and you can’t imagine ever picking yourself up from the floor, I thought it might be useful to have a closer look at the recognised symptoms.

There are established methods to determine whether someone is burning out or not. The original Maslach Burnout Inventory is aligned with the World Health Organisation’s definition of burnout:

Burn-out 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.

WHO 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)

Mensura, the Belgian expert in workplace health and safety, sees the main symptoms to look out for as physical and psychological exhaustion; memory and concentration problems; emotional outbursts; mental (and physical) detachment and then three secondary symptoms – mental stress complaints (sleep problems, panic attacks), psychosomatic stress complaints (tension headaches) and a depressed mood.

Let’s look at those one at a time. Physical and psychological exhaustion is when someone is literally running on empty. That colleague who usually contributes to meetings now hanging back quietly and not taking part. Memory and concentration problems might make someone miss deadlines or make mistakes. Emotional outbursts might mean someone exploding with anger when even slightly contradicted; or bursting into tears when given less than positive feedback. Disconnection from work is a form of self-protection – the enthusiastic worker may now act with indifference. All these things together, accompanied perhaps by other stress-related disruptions to sleep, physical pain with psychological roots or a depressed mood are strong indicators that a person is burnt out.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory (version francaise ici) is a the gold standard in diagnostic tools, but it is not freely available, so there are other tools that may be helpful in indicating how affected you are by burnout.

As burnout is a term that originally referred to work stress, it is labelled by the World Health Organisation as an “occupational phenomenon” rather than a medical condition. This is constantly evolving however, and research is ongoing into other forms of burnout, including parental burnout and even pandemic burnout. Depending on the kind of burnout you may be experiencing, self-tests may be more or less effective.

If you complete a diagnostic test and believe you are in burnout, the first step is to speak to your doctor. She or he will be able to determine the next steps for you to take, whether they are medical, psychological or coaching-related. Madame Papillon is here, of course, to complement that support when you are ready.

Leave a Reply