Background Burnout is a very popular topic, and the public interest in burnout has grown enormously since the mass media eagerly picked up the burnout concept in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Burnout have been described as a widespread disease, but what it really means may seem blurred and almost all-encompassing.
Objectives This written assignment looks at how to define the term and how to understand the process of burning out. The distinctiveness of burnout from other related terms, such as stress, depression, chronic fatigue and adjustment disorder is also treated.
MethodTo answer these questions i performed a study of available literature. For literature searches i have mainly used Medline, Bibsys and the archives of Den Norske Lægeforening. I have also used the case study method on two case´s I have experienced through work in the health services, and presented in this paper.
Results and reflectionsDespite the almost universally use of a definition presented by Christina Maslach, further research seems to remain before agreement about one´ definition can be reached. Maslach´s definition has three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment. There seems to be an agreement about emotional exhaustion as the most important dimension, but both the use of one, two and three dimensions are argued. In order to distinguish burnout from related terms, the use of two ore more dimensions are needed. More longitudinal studies in order to study the development of burnout over time should be one of the goals for the future.