Burnout Syndrome: see what symptoms, ICD and remedies

Also known as professional burnout syndrome, burnout syndrome is increasingly in evidence in the media.

Its meaning comes close to “completely burned”, like a match that has burnt out entirely and can no longer be used. This alludes to the patient’s physical and mental state, which is affected due to overwork.

The groups most affected are those who work directly with constant responsibilities, such as health professionals (doctors, nurses, among others), teachers, police officers, journalists and media professionals, among others.

These careers are often demarcated by frequent overtime, uncertain hours, great risks or accumulation of tasks. Routines that end up being extended, leaving little time for rest and leisure.


What is Burnout Syndrome?

Burnout syndrome is a mental disorder with depressive elements, such as physical and mental exhaustion, caused by high and constant stress in professional life. It can affect all types of professionals, especially those who work directly with people.

According to data from the International Stress Management Association , about 72% of Brazilian workers suffer from some sequel caused by work stress. On average, 32% of these people are prone to developing burnout syndrome.

In addition, 92% of those who already have the syndrome continue to work.

And the causes and worsening of the condition turns out to be cyclical. This is because the fear of unemployment is a risk factor. However, when developing the syndrome, the professional is more prone to serious errors or constant absences, which can increase his chances of losing his job.

In severe cases, depression and anxiety have great impacts on the patient’s condition, increasing the risk of suicide.

Despite the incidence, burnout syndrome can be treated and prevented. In some cases, it is necessary to consider a replacement in the job market or even start a new career.

There are those who believe that the professional burnout syndrome is due to a personal failure in which the individual “cannot stand the pressure”. However, it is necessary to demystify this issue.

Statistics show that this is an increasingly frequent problem with a higher prevalence in certain careers, but that it can affect anyone who is overcharged.

One of the key points of the burnout syndrome is that the individual often feels that his job is meaningless. As contradictory as it may seem, this happens even when the person loves the area in which he works.

Not infrequently, organizational issues in the workplace have a major influence on the onset of the syndrome. For example, extensive workloads, failures in team management, difficulties in taking advantage of employees’ individual skills, among others.

Self-collection and perfectionism can increase the chances of the condition presenting.

In general, those who have these characteristics tend to work harder to always improve their work, increasing exposure to stress.

It is normal, for example, for health professionals to want to save patients and, when this is not possible, the emotional burden is very great. The same is true of education professionals, who often feel incompetent when a student fails a test.

Interestingly, the researcher who coined the term burnout syndrome was a German psychoanalyst who found the disorder itself in the 1970s.

Read more: Janeiro Branco: campaign encourages mental health care

What is the ICD for Burnout Syndrome?

Currently, burnout syndrome is not classified as a disease and does not have an ICD. However, the World Health Organization has recognized the syndrome as a real phenomenon and it will be included in ICD-11, which will be valid from 2022, in the chapter of problems associated with employment or unemployment.

Currently, the code used to characterize the burnout syndrome at ICD-10 is Z73.0, which refers to exhaustion related to “Problems related to the organization of your way of life”.

However, this classification is very comprehensive, which is why the syndrome will receive a unique code in the new version of the ICD.

Other codes frequently used in the context of burnout syndrome are Z56.3 (Pace of drudgery) and Z56.6 (Other physical and mental difficulties related to work).

Causes of professional burnout

In general, professional burnout appears as a response to a prolonged state of work-related stress, especially when conditions are physically, emotionally and psychologically stressful.

Stressing about work is normal and often does not mean that something is wrong, but when that stress becomes too much and there is not adequate rest, the consequences can be serious.

Some risk factors that increase the chance of developing burnout syndrome are:

  • Excess of work;
  • Conflicting work relationships;
  • Lack of resources to meet the demands;
  • Overload of functions;
  • Perfectionism and idealism in relation to the profession;
  • Lack of autonomy;
  • Absence of recognition;
  • Impossibility of career progression or ascension;
  • Demanding work environments that demand a lot of productivity (unattainable goals);
  • Risk activities in which small errors can cause major losses;
  • Competitiveness among coworkers and exaggerated distrust.

Which professionals are most affected by Burnout Syndrome?

The professionals most affected by the burnout syndrome are usually those who work directly with people, such as teachers, health professionals, people who work with the media, among others.

It is worth mentioning, however, that all professionals , from any area, can be affected by the syndrome.

Two professions in which burnout happens very often are teachers and nurses. Understand:

Teachers (teacher burnout)

Education professionals usually need to deal with both the pressures of the educational institution and the student body (students). This can make them especially susceptible to professional burnout.

A study in Virginia, USA, shows that teachers have many sources of stress in their work.

Among them the lack of resources, lack of time, excessive meetings, large number of students per room, lack of assistance and support, in addition to having to deal with often hostile parents.

Cases of students with indiscipline can also worsen the situation, since schools do not always have adequate institutional policies to assist the teacher.

Other factors that can interfere in the mental health of teachers are excessive workloads, the low status and remuneration of the teaching class, career opportunities that are not very interesting, lack of recognition when they teach a good class or when they teach students well, among others.

All of these issues tend to be demotivating, which often causes work to lose its meaning, a very dangerous condition for the development of burnout syndrome.


In general, health professionals often experience very intense emotions, which increases stress at work. The loss of patients to an illness, for example, can carry enormous weight.

As the area of ​​health deals with issues of life and death, the emotional burden of health professionals is usually great.

It is worth remembering that, depending on the case, nurses tend to deal with responsibilities in a very intense way, since they are responsible for the care of the patient while he is admitted to a hospital.

The professional is responsible for medication schedules and dosages, basic care such as food and hygiene, in addition to often providing emotional support to the patient, even though this role is not commonly assigned to the nurse.

Adding this to the hourly overload and the wage devaluation of the category, we see nurses working in more than one hospital or clinic, without having much time to rest between 12-hour shifts.

In this context, professional burnout is just a matter of time.

What are the symptoms of Burnout Syndrome?

The main symptoms of burnout syndrome are excessive tiredness , both physical and mental. In addition, psychosomatic symptoms are present, such as belly pain, dizziness, headache , lack of appetite, insomnia , among others.

Psychosomatic symptoms originate in the emotional and manifest in the body. That is, even with the health of the organism up to date, the body is affected by the mind.

Many of these symptoms start in an insidious way, that is, they are weak in the beginning. This makes the professional continue to work, believing that it is a passing thing.

However, as time passes and the individual continues to work without significant rest, the symptoms worsen.

Some manifestations present in several cases of burnout syndrome are:

  • Tiredness bordering on exhaustion, both physical and mental;
  • Decreased feeling of personal fulfillment in the career;
  • Frequent headaches and migraines;
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns, including insomnia;
  • Concentration difficulties;
  • Memory lapses;
  • Anxiety;
  • Apathy;
  • Pessimism;
  • Feelings of failure, insecurity, incompetence, defeat, hopelessness, among others;
  • Aggressiveness and irritability;
  • Sudden mood swings;
  • High blood pressure and changes in heart rate (palpitations);
  • Sweating;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Asthma attacks;
  • Gastrointestinal problems.

In addition to symptoms, some behaviors may be common to patients, such as absences from work and social isolation (friends, family).

Diagnosis: are there tests to identify professional burnout?

The diagnosis of burnout syndrome is clinical and can be done through questionnaires designed to detect the condition, but this is not always necessary.

A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, may suspect the condition based on knowledge of the patient’s life history, as well as his relationship with work, with his colleagues, managers, among others.

It is worth remembering that, many times, the individual arrives at the office on a recommendation basis, as he himself does not realize that there is something wrong with his mental health, especially when it happens in relation to work.

In this sense, knowing that friends and family point to the fact that the person works too much is extremely important for the diagnosis to be made correctly.

Is burnout syndrome a cure?

The burnout syndrome has no cure , but the symptoms can go into remission so that the individual’s life is not so affected.

It cannot be said that the disorder can be cured because the person may still have symptoms again, especially if he continues to work under the same conditions in which he fell ill.

Career change is often indicated for people who suffer from this syndrome, but that does not mean that the person is cured. Even with different rhythms of work, the disorder can come back, depending on many aspects about the relationship that the person has with the activities they perform.

Read more: Contact with nature reduces stress in 20 minutes

How is the treatment done?

At first, psychotherapy is one of the most frequent treatments for burnout syndrome. In it, the patient receives support to deal with emotional issues, involving both professional and personal aspects.

Thus, changes in work habits and lifestyle are indicated to lead a routine with less stress.

But a psychiatrist may also recommend treatment with antidepressants or anxiolytics , depending on the case.

It is also recommended to practice physical activities frequently, as well as relaxation practices. These are important habits for those who want to fight prolonged stress.

If possible, the person is asked to take a vacation to rest and prioritize leisure activities with close people, such as friends and family.

Sometimes temporary or even permanent leave from work is necessary. In such cases, you can try to re-enter the job market, preferably in a new area whose work pace is different from the previous career.


The choice of medication depends on the symptoms and their intensity. Therefore, the professional must evaluate each case.

Among the options that can be used are:

  • Sertraline ;
  • Fluoxetine ;
  • Citalopram ;
  • Paroxetine ;
  • Duloxetine ;
  • Nortriptyline ;
  • Amitriptyline ;
  • Venlafaxine ;
  • Desvenlafaxine ;
  • Escitalopram ;
  • Fluvoxamine ;
  • Bupropion .

How to prevent professional burnout?

Some tips to prevent the onset of burnout syndrome are:

  • Set small, achievable goals in professional and personal life;
  • Dedicate time to pleasurable activities, which assist in well-being and relaxation;
  • If leisure time is lacking, it is important to review priorities – not infrequently, time would be left if the person put leisure and personal well-being as a priority;
  • Carry out activities that escape the daily routine;
  • Talk about your feelings with someone you trust;
  • Perform physical activities regularly;
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as the use of substances tends to worsen the symptoms of mental disorders;
  • Do not take medication without a prescription;
  • Rest properly;
  • Take a vacation when possible;
  • Have good sleep habits (8 hours a night, if possible).

Read more: Contact with nature protects children’s mental health

Common questions

How does work leave work? What is the indicated time?

Any conditions – accidents or illnesses – that need to leave the worker for more than 15 days from their activities entitle them to leave by the INSS. Therefore, the burnout syndrome also fits.

In general, after 15 days of medical certificate, the patient needs to make an appointment with the INSS expert doctors, who will tell you if you are able or not to continue working.

Remembering that there may be specificities for public servants. All doubts about criteria and procedures must be resolved with the competent bodies.

If the result is negative, the professional stays away and receives accident-related sick pay, and must be constantly reassessed by INSS doctors to ensure when he is able to return to work.

In more serious cases, the person who does not recover may end up needing to retire due to disability.

There is no exact time indicated for removal due to professional exhaustion. Everything depends a lot on the evolution of the situation, but the worker can make a professional rehabilitation (art. 62, Law 8.213 / 91) to carry out other activities during this period.

After returning to work in which he became ill, the individual has the right to provisional stability for 12 months, that is, he cannot be released from the company during that time.

Remembering that the return should be done gradually to avoid the return of the symptoms of burnout.

Does Burnout Syndrome entitle you to retirement due to disability?

Yes. The burnout syndrome is usually characterized as an occupational disease by the INSS expert doctors. Therefore, there is the possibility of enjoying social security benefits such as sickness benefit, accident benefit, disability retirement and even death pension.

Burnout syndrome is a disorder that can become serious if left untreated.