According to this article (dutch) scientists working for the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, have succeeded in showing physical evidence of the presence of burn-out symptoms in patients.
For those that don’t read dutch, a rough translation:
“The universities call this a break-through because so far there are plenty of countries where burn-out is not recognized as a real phenomenon, one of those countries is the United States.
By showing through objective means that burn-out is real the door is open to recognizing it as a real issue instead of a purely mental one and makes possible diagnosis and treatment.
Burn-out patients typically suffer for a very long time from their symptoms and many of them never recover their former levels of productivity.
The researchers asked their subjects to open and close their eyes in a relaxed state and imaged their brain activity while doing so.
The patterns seen in the brains of burn-out patients showed less peaks, which according to the researchers indicates that such a person has a lesser capability to engage in significant mental activity.
Other scans showed that those with burn-out on the whole had less brain activity.
Further research on larger groups is now indicated, but the researchers don’t doubt that burn-out will soon be a recognized problem all over the world.
The news will be published officially on thursday in a prominent American journal, which is significant because it will help psychiatrists there to recognize and treat these patients.“
I think that’s great news for all those people that have been suffering burn-out and its symptoms that so far went unrecognized, or that were told that it was just their imagination.
By having concrete proof there is no more reason to label this as a figment of their collective imaginations. What is surprising is that it is - in retrospect - so easy to diagnose. It will also help to create a dividing line between those that really suffer from burn-out and those that think they do but actually have some other underlying cause.
Employers in particular should take note of this research, it may very well be that by denying the reality of the problem that they are effectively making it worse.
This research also seems to indicate that burn-out may be of a (semi) permanent nature.
For a definition of burn-out see here: wikipedia: burn-out