Healthy Living: Work stress could land you in the doctor’s office

Stressed at work? You’re not alone. The World Health Organization has recognized burn-out as an occupational phenomenon, adding it to the International Classification of Diseases.

According to the World Health Organization, doctors may now diagnose patients with burn-out if they have the following symptoms: 

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

While burn-out is not a medical condition, it is a reason for which people contact health services applies specifically to the occupational context. 

The World Health Organization mentions mental well-being in the workplace is a focus. 

Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, says the move by the World Health Organization is interesting, new and innovative.

“It’s interesting. Many workers have stress and so you may think of someone in a job as a physician or executive or something with a lot of responsibility but studies show that some of the people who have the most stress are individuals who feel that they are not in control or have no influence over their work environments,” says Dr. Levine.

Once diagnosed, treatment could look different from patient to patient.

Dr. Levine says patients with more severe symptoms of anxiety or depression could require medical intervention and sometimes therapy, counseling or medication.

The key is prevention. 

According to Dr. Levine, being mindful of work stresses and anxiety can help to address the issue before it gets too severe.

She suggests people feeling stressed should consider meditation, tai chi and yoga.

At the Department of Health, Dr. Levine says there are wellness programs in place like “Walk Works” which allows employees to get outside and move.

She also mentioned many employers have counseling services available and employees should take advantage if they are offered.

“I think there is more recognition of mental health now than there was in the past,” says Dr. Levine. “And I think our workplaces are even more stressful than they may have been in the past.”

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