by Alexis Collins — September 15, 2021
Burnout is being cited as one reason that a record number of people are leaving their jobs in what is being called the Great Resignation of 2021. However, there is considerable overlap between the symptoms of burnout and PTSD. Both disorders have seen a steady increase in their diagnosis over the past few years. So how can you tell if the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by PTSD or Burnout?
According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), burnout "...is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed". In other words, burnout is an illness that results from prolonged work in a highly stressful environment causing extreme physical and mental exhaustion. The five leading causes of burnout are 1. Unfair treatment at work, 2. Unmanageable workload, 3. Lack of role clarity, 4. Lack of communication and support from the manager, and 5. Unreasonable time pressure. A Gallup poll from 2018 found that about two-thirds of all full-time employees experience burnout, and professions in medicine, law and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are most likely to experience burnout.
The American Psychological Association describes PTSD as a psychiatric condition characterized by intense, prolonged psychological distress caused by having one or repeated exposures to a traumatic event(s). A traumatic event includes directly experiencing, witnessing, or learning of an event that can cause death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Examples of traumatic events include, but are not limited to, natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape.
The significant differences between burnout and PTSD are:
No, burnout and PTSD are not mutually exclusive. For one, a person diagnosed with PTSD can also be diagnosed with burnout and vice versa. Both disorders often co-occur with other illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Burnout can predict and worsen the development and severity of PTSD. Both disorders can harm our interpersonal relationships.
The symptoms of burnout and PTSD are distinct, but there is some overlap. Depression, depersonalization, anxiety and feelings of negativism or cynicism are symptpms of both burnout and PTSD.