WHO: ‘Burnout’ an ‘occupational phenomenon’ not disease

THE World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday, May 28,  clarified that while “burnout” remains an “occupational phenomenon” that could lead someone to seek care, it is not a medical condition. This was after the WHO mistakenly said it had listed burnout in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for the first time.

The latest catalogue of diseases and injuries, collectively known as the ICD-11, were approved during the weekend after the World Health Assembly — WHO’s main annual meeting which wrapped up on Tuesday.

Burnout was listed in the ICD-10, but its definition has now been changed in the latest edition of the text.

In an email sent by a WHO spokesperson, the organization explained that the definition has been modified based on existing research. It is now defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burnout is classified by “1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy.”

The updated ICD list was drafted last year after receiving recommendations from various health experts across the globe.

The ICD-11 will take effect in January 2022. It contains several other additions such as the  classification of “compulsive sexual behavior” as a mental disorder, and recognition of video gaming as an addiction, listing it along with gambling and drugs. It also removes transgenderism as a mental disorder, including it under the chapter on “conditions related to sexual health” instead.

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