Burn-out is a disease

Yes, it is finally official.

For many years we are explaining burn-out in our massage lessons, not as a psychosomatic problem, but as a disease. However, it was still not officially recognized.

Today this has changed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially identified burnout as a disease. At the annual meeting in Geneva, the WHO member states added burn-out – including game addiction – to a catalogue containing 55,000 diseases, symptoms and causes of injury.


So what is burn out? 

The official definition is: ‘Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’

In the definition of the WHO burn-out has three defining symptoms. A burn-out leads to:

  • feelings of tiredness
  • a negative attitude towards a job
  • and a decrease in productivity.

Some facts

In 2007, more than 11 per cent of employees working in the Netherlands said they had burnout complaints. In ten years this has gradually risen to 16 per cent.


Burn-out reasons

Research institute TNO that examines burn-out complaints every 2 years in the Netherlands, states there are two main causes for the increase in the number of burn-out complaints. First of all, people experience less freedom when they are working. Secondly, more is required of them. These two matters increase work stress and work pressure, according to TNO.


The research also states that about a quarter of the total number of days of absence is related to psychological complaints, overstrain or burn-out. The annual costs of work-related absenteeism are almost 9 billion a year, more than half is spent on psychological complaints.


Wow, that is a lot, right?


Free-lancers are less prone to burn-out

Another interesting conclusion from the research is that permanent employees more often suffer from burn-out complaints than flex workers or free-lance workers. Researcher Hooftman from TNO stated on the Dutch Radio at NOS Radio 1 Journaal: “People with a permanent contract are often in a situation where they have to work hard without having to say anything about it. And if you are in such a situation for a long time, you are more likely to develop symptoms. Being able to determine a lot and not being able to determine for yourself is not such a favourable combination.”


Burn-out recognized as a disease

So burn-out is officially recognized as a disease. However, it will become globally recognized in 2022, giving healthcare providers and insurer’s precedent to acknowledge, treat and cover symptoms of burn-out.


Burn-out explained

So, why do we talk a lot about burn-out during our massage lessons? Because we explain what happens in your body when you get a burn-out. Let’s look at the definition of burn-out: ‘Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’


This is what happens when you have stress

When you have stress, your nervous system responds immediately by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones awaken the body for emergency action. This is good when you need to be alert, but what happens when you have stress for a longer period.


Stress can make you sick

When your levels of cortisol in your bloodstream are high, so when you are stressed, something else happens in your body. There are two systems in your body that switch off. The immune system. And the digestion system.


Digestion system shuts down

So everything you eat, will not digest properly. You are more prone to having digestion problems. Or gastrointestinal disorders, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis etc.


The immune system switches off

Not only the digestion system shuts down when you are stressed, so does the immune system. So any type of virus or bacteria that you normally could fight properly with your immune system, will now attack you. You can become sick when you are increasing these levels of cortisol for a longer period of time.


Stress at work?

In example let’s say you work in an office where you feel stressed every day. This means you will not have a high level of cortisol for only a couple of seconds when you are in a dangerous situation.


 Work-stress can create burn-out

In a stressful working environment, your levels of cortisol will be high all day during work. Maybe 7 or 8 hours per day. If this happens to you it is very obvious that you can become sick. Many people who are feeling stressed every day will have digestion problems, become sick more often, which can eventually result in burn-out.


How to de-stress?

So you now get the bigger picture. You need cortisol in your body to be alert or when you are in a ‘fight or flight’ situation. However, stress for a longer period is bad for your body. So what do you need to do to when you are stressed, to de-stress? Well, obviously you need to decrease the cortisol in your body.


Lowering cortisol

The best to lower your cortisol level in your body is to improve the blood circulation. You can do that by exercise or massage. Both improve your blood circulation.


Hope it is clear now why burn-out is a disease. We wish you a healthy, happy and stress-free day!

Nicole & Manel

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