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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 54-59

The urgent need for diagnostic criteria and further understanding of burnout syndrome

1 Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
2 Emirates Center for Happiness Research, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
3 Ventura County Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program, Ventura, Calfornia, United States

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jeffrey King
Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Sheikh Khalifa Street, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1947-489X.320339

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The term burnout is widely used and accepted worldwide, but its existence as a distinct clinical entity remains poorly understood and is the source of controversy within academic circles. The existence or nonexistence of burnout has significant implications for individuals, families, organizations, communities, and societies. There is an urgent need for further descriptive research to determine consensus-driven diagnostic criteria that will aid in high-quality research to guide nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment and to aid in the development of individual, organizational, and societal prevention strategies. This urgency is driven by recent changes in the occupational-social contract and highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To address this need, the authors performed a narrative, nonsystematic review to obtain an overview of the current body of literature regarding the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of burnout symptoms. A literature search was conducted in PubMed for relevant articles in English since 1974 with the following search terms: “occupational burnout,” “professional burnout,” “career burnout,” “assessment,” “inventory,” “measure,” “instrument,” “diagnosis,” “treatment,” “guideline” in different combinations. Hand searching was also performed. Retrieved records were reviewed, and the relevant studies were summarized. Burnout, whether a distinct clinical entity or an occupationally triggered manifestation of an already defined mental health condition, is an urgent public health priority. There is peril in waiting for a follow-on epidemic of its manifestations before embarking on high-quality research into diagnostic criteria, treatment, and prevention, as this takes time. However, this information is vital for individual practitioners, health-care systems, governments, and societies to meet this pressing need.

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