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Mental Health Professionals: Can Burnout Lead to Mental Health Issues?

Mental Health Professionals: Can Burnout Lead to Mental Health Issues?

Mental health professionals face unique and varying challenges on a daily basis, with a common denominator of compassion needed to provide the best care. Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress, is an unfortunately common occurrence in the healthcare field – and happens when a healthcare professional becomes numb and disconnected after hearing and providing care for individuals with very stressful situations. These sense of disconnectedness can directly affect their professional success, and can be a contributing factor to burnout. If you’re a mental health professional, it’s important to manage burnout before mental health issues arise.

A 2018 study published in the journal European Psychiatry sought to explore specific determinants of burnout amongst mental health professionals. A systematic review was conducted, and 33 studies were analyzed. Researchers found several common themes amongst the studies reviewed:

  • Increasing age was found to be associated with an increased risk of depersonalization but also a heightened sense of accomplishment
  • Workload and relationships at work were found to be key determinants of burnout
  • Role clarity, personal sense of autonomy, sense of being fairly treated, and access to regular clinical supervisor were shown to be protective factors against burnout
  • Staff working in community mental health teams may be more vulnerable to burnout that individuals working in specialized community teams (such as crisis teams)

According to the Association for Psychological Science (APS), states that burnout can emerge,“…when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.”

Previous studies have shown that individuals with burnout typically have an enlarged amygdalae, with significantly weaker connections between the brain and amygdala linked to emotional distress. This kind of stress can transform into depressive and anxiety disorders if not taken care of properly, which can jeopardize not only one’s professional success but also their personal happiness and wellbeing.

Although medical healthcare professionals work long hours, self-care is crucial in order to maintain quality of life. If you’ve been experiencing burnout and are noticing symptoms of a mental illness, seek the help you need today. Begin practicing self-care, such as: 1) taking breaks, 2) finding a healthy support system, 3) de-stressing, and more.

If you haven’t already, speak with someone from a professional treatment center to learn more about programs to best suit your needs. Optimal recovery is possible, and you are not alone in your pursuit for happiness, health, and wellbeing.

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