KU Leuven defines burnout to help with diagnoses


As confusion around what constitutes burnout continues, KU Leuven has completed a research project on symptoms, which it is now testing together with physicians and psychologists

Five core symptoms

Researchers at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) have defined the main symptoms of burnout and created a list of questions doctors and psychologists can use to facilitate diagnosing the condition.

The burnout phenomenon was again the subject of criticism recently, after Flemish entrepreneur Roland Duchâtelet stated to Het Laatste Nieuws that many people are faking it. Experts followed up with comments about  how the diagnosis was sometimes determined too quickly and that care providers do not always possess the right tools to make the correct diagnosis.

Diagnosing burnout is currently done on the basis of a list of symptoms developed 30 years ago. KU Leuven’s new list of symptoms is now being tested and, if successful, will become official at the end of the year.

The researchers consulted some 40 experts to give the condition more precisely defined symptoms. They have identified five core symptoms:

Exhaustion, both physical and psychological

Loss of cognitive control, including memory and concentration problems

Loss of emotional control such as angry outbursts or uncontrollable crying

Depression-related complaints like feeling helpless or guilty

Distancing oneself from work

The research confirms that burnout is a work-related issue but indicates it is also linked to people’s personalities. Yes-types and perfectionists run a higher risk of suffering from the symptoms.

Photo: Ingimage