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The World health Organization defines Occupational Burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”


In the organization’s International Classification of Diseases diagnostic manual, the three main symptoms of Occupational Burnout are:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.

  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings negative towards one’s career.

  • Reduced professional productivity.

What Causes Burnout?

Burnout occurs when our expectations of the job we are doing do not match the day to day realities of the job.

For Example:

Becky and John were both hired to work in the mailroom at a large law firm.

Becky told her boss that she was currently taking classes to become a certifies paralegal.  The person who interviewed her told that the mailroom job would lead to a promotion to a paralegal position when she completed her classes.  Because of budget cuts at the law firm, Becky is still working in the mailroom at minimum wage.  She hates her job, she comes home emotionally and physically exhausted every day.  She is resentful and feels misled.  However, she needs to keep this job to pay her bills, and still hopes the company's finances will improve so that she can get her promotion.

John worked in aerospace for 35 years and retired at age 60.  He became bored and restless, and applied for the mailroom job so that he would have something to do.  Having spent 25 years working behind a computer, he was craving human interaction.  Every morning, he is excited to go to work and deliver mail to the various people in the building.  He knows each and every one of them by name, and goes out of his way to deliver their mail with a smile and a kind word.  He is well-loved in the office, and last week the firm threw him an office party to celebrate his 75th birthday.

How can Therapy Help?

It can be very helpful to be proactive and seek  assistance in sorting through your job expectations and options.

Together, we will examine the reasons that keep you returning to a job that creates a negative experience for you.  Depending on the cause, treatment might include some of the following interventions:

  • Determining the source of the problem.

  • Transforming negative thoughts and perceptions into more helpful thoughts.

  • Assertiveness training.

  • Setting new goals with tangible action steps.

  • Creating meaningful experiences within and outside of work.

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