Medical Leave for Burnout (Is it a medical condition?)

Medical Leave for Burnout

In this guide, we will discuss “Medical Leave for Burnout”, when you should leave your desk, is burnout considered a medical condition?

And some of the symptoms you could identify in yourself if you feel like you are suffering from Burnout.

Medical Leave for Burnout

You may be wondering when to take medical leave for Burnout or when to say ‘It is enough’.

Well, if you are struggling to function in your daily life activities then it is better to consider taking medical leave for burnout.

You may notice first, how difficult it is getting to function at work and this is mostly because you have kept working into the point of exhaustion. 

We understand how committed you are to your work and how you demand a lot from yourself in order to keep your success and ‘high achiever’ status and how you want everything to be perfect.

In doing so, you may have subjected yourself to working long hours or doing overtime, accepting heavy workloads, and unreasonable deadlines.

Subsequently, you may have had to work even during lunch hour, you may have been eating at your desk or you may even think you can’t have the ‘luxury’ of taking a break.

Medical Leave for Burnout (Is it a medical condition?)

As indicated by Monique Valcour from Harvard Business Review, “Burnout has three components: exhaustion (lost energy), cynicism (lost enthusiasm), and inefficacy (lost self-confidence and capacity to perform), but you don’t have to be experiencing all three in order to suffer serious consequences.”

Employers and employees alike should not pretend it doesn’t exist and try to ignore the impact it can have on mental health.

Everyone is different meaning the symptoms and manifestations of burnout may vary, however, it is important not to wait until it is too late to stop your work rhythm, pace, and loads.

When to leave your desk

Many of us don’t really know when to stop and we have become workaholics.

If you are no longer able to concentrate, can’t really pay attention to that work meeting, or what your boss or colleague is saying, then it is time to take a step away from work.

Moreover, you may have been complaining about how you seem to get little to no sleep at all during the night and you struggle to even get out of bed in the morning.

When people keep pushing themselves, that love you used to have for your work is forgotten and you actually start to hate it.

Do you remember the last time you took a minute to pause and talk to a colleague about something that was not related to work?

Or just to breathe or take a cup of coffee/tea?

If you don’t actually remember or you know you haven’t done it for a long time, then it is time to think about taking a step away from work.

This is in fact the best thing to do when you feel you are no longer being productive or your performance has dropped, avoiding damaging your career and reputation.

As Dr. Patricia Turner, a Registered Psychologist from turnerpsychologycalgary.com indicates, “A person in burnout may need to go on medical leave to prevent inadvertently making a mistake that could cost their company dearly, or could endanger lives.”

Is burnout a medical condition? 

Burnout is considered an ‘occupational phenomenon’ and it is not classed as a medical condition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is described under ‘Factors influencing health status or contact with health services’. Burnout is defined in ICD-11 as follows:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job.
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

However, to consider you do suffer from Burnout, you must meet all three of the criteria we have mentioned above.

Medical Leave for Burnout (Is it a medical condition?)

To support this, Katia Bishop from the ‘Independent’ has indicated “Burnout is an epidemic that until now has not been recognized as a diagnosable disorder, but this is all set to change.

This week, the World Health Organisation announced that burnout will be classified as a chronic condition in the upcoming 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.”

Moreover, she indicates how studies reflect that burnout is more prevalent in women and the impact seems to extend far outside of the workplace, meaning that at home could be an added stressor that exacerbates the symptoms, potentially also causing anxiety, insomnia, among other conditions. 

What the Law Says….

Stress has been linked to heavy workloads and long hours. As indicated in The Working Time Regulations 1998 (stress.org.uk):

  • A maximum of 8 hours of work for night shifts
  • A maximum working week of not more than 48 hours, including overtime (averaged out over a period of 17 weeks), although employees may opt out of this
  • A daily rest period of 11 hours
  • A day off every week
  • A rest break of 20 minutes if the working day is more than 6 hours
  • Paid annual leave of 4 weeks

Moreover, in regards to employees, they “have the duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and of others who may be affected by their actions.

Employers should inform promptly their employers if they feel the pressure of the job is putting them or anyone else at risk of ill health.”

Subsequently, if you feel your work is too stressful or you start to notice you can’t cope, make sure to talk to your employer about the pressure your job is putting on you and suggest options on how you could feel better or how to alleviate stress. 

Medical Leave for Burnout (Is it a medical condition?)

How can I know if I suffer from Burnout?

If you need a medical leave for Burnout, make sure to visit your GP and tell them everything you have been feeling. Yo help you identify some of the symptoms, here are five signs that you could experience if you are suffering from burnout according to Moya Sarner from theguardian.com:

  • You feel exhausted, with no energy to do anything. You might experience disturbed sleep, and some flu-like symptoms.
  • You have difficulties concentrating, and feel as if your mind is zoning out, going into a daze for hours on end.
  • You feel irritated and frustrated, often becoming self-critical.
  • Supermarkets and similar places begin to feel overwhelming – the lights are too bright and there is too much noise.
  • You feel detached from things you used to love.
Medical Leave for Burnout (Is it a medical condition?)

Why is this blog about Medical Leave for Burnout important?

As we have discussed, burnout is serious and even though it is not (yet) considered a medical condition, it is becoming more and more common as if it was spreading like a disease.

Most employees and employers pretend to ignore its existence and wait for it to just go away but the truth is that, if there is no contingency plan or treatment, it can significantly impact not only your life but your mental health.

We have mentioned some of the symptoms you may experience and could alert you if you feel like you have burnout syndrome. It is important to act fast and take a step back from work to recover.

Visit your GP if you have any of the symptoms we have mentioned and don’t just wait until it is too late.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Medical Leave for Burnout

Can you take sick leave for burnout?

Yes, you can and will actually depend on the laws of each country.

Sometimes it is referred to as ‘stress leave’ even if you are experiencing burn out.

You may need to apply for a leave of absence also if you have anxiety or depression.

If you are feeling unwell, even if it has to do with mental health, make sure to pay a visit to your doctor.  

What are the 5 stages of burnout?

Symptoms of burnout can vary from one person to the other, but these 5 stages are commonly experienced:

– The honeymoon phase where you are satisfied, committed to your job, and energized.

– The Onset of stress is the phase where you start being aware of struggling some days and dealing with stress symptoms.

– Chronic stress is related to a change in your stress levels going higher and higher.

This could affect you physically and emotionally by manifesting in chronic exhaustion, being physically ill, and having a lack of interest in activities that used to motivate you.

– In the Burnout phase, the symptoms become critical and you could experience behavioral changes, chronic headaches, feelings of emptiness, a pessimistic overlook on work, and life, among others.

– Habitual Burnout is when the symptoms are so rooted that you start to experience significant physical and emotional issues.

What does burnout feel like?

Burnout feels like being mentally exhausted and empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. Most people that experience burnout feel hopeless and think about how their situation will never really change.

If you have experienced stress as being overwhelmed and like you are drowning without being able to grasp for air, burnout feels like you are all dried up.

How do I get rid of burnout?

If you want to get rid of burnout, you could consider following these tips:

– Mindfulness meditation. This will allow you to focus on your breathing and all the sensations in your body, letting you be in the present moment. 

– Communicate how you are feeling to someone you trust, a counselor or a therapist.

– Write how and what you are feeling. This will let you get it all out instead of keeping everything inside.

Can I quit my job due to stress?

You can quit your job due to stress. Maybe you are feeling too overwhelmed by stress in your actual job and you are considering quitting, however, you may feel scared for the unknown or not really having another job offer lined up.

Doesn’t really matter, your mental health is more important than a job.

In contrast, if you do want to keep your actual job, speak up, talk to your boss to find solutions to the amount of stress you have to be dealing on a daily basis.

References 

Turnerpsychologycalgary.com: “Burnout: When to Take Medical Leave”

World Health Organization (2019, May.) Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. Retrieved from who.int.

Bishop, K. (2019, May.) Burnout is now a recognized condition – and that’s more important than you think. Retrieved from independent.co.uk.

Stress.org.uk: “What the Law Says”

Sarner, M. (2018, Feb.) How burnout became a sinister and insidious epidemic. Retrieved from theguardian.com.

Crawford, R. (2014, Jun.) How to manage workplace burnout. Retrieved from employeebenefits.com.uk.

Daniela Paez

Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.