Occupational burnout or simply burnout is now classified as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This means burnout is now an official medical diagnosis, but it is not considered a disease. As an occupational phenomenon, burnout might lead someone to seek care, but it still isn’t considered a medical condition or a disease.

"The definition has been modified based on existing research," said a WHO spokesperson.

Burnout as a syndrome is now to be found in the latest edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). ICD-11 is the latest edition of the catalogue of diseases and injuries that help medical providers diagnose diseases.

Burnout is included in the previous ICD-10 but not as a medical disorder. It was previously classified under problems related to life-management difficulty. In ICD-11, however, burnout is to be found under problems associated with employment or unemployment in the section on factors influencing health status. This section is reserved for circumstances other than a disease, injury or other medical condition.

ICD-11 says burnout is specific to occupation and “should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Burnout is etiologically, clinically and nosologically similar to depression. It is characterized by stress, depression and a lack of feeling in control.

As a syndrome, WHO characterized burnout by the following: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one's occupation or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to work and reduced professional efficacy.

ICD-11 was drafted in 2018 following recommendations from health experts worldwide. It will take effect in January 2022.

Another interestig change in the latest edition of the ICD is the fact that WHO now considers video game addiction a mental health disorder. It lists video gaming alongside gambling and drugs like cocaine.

Additionally, ICD-11 removes transgenderism from its list of mental disorders and instead places it under the chapter on "conditions related to sexual health." It also classifies "compulsive sexual behavior" as a mental disorder, but stops short of including the condition together with addictive behaviors.

Higher rates of depression diagnoses were observed among women compared to men. Jasper Graetsch/Unsplash