Lawyers, Burnout is a Real Disease

Frustrated businessman with lot of files on desk against gray background
By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 30, 2019 10:03 AM

The World Health Organization has classified new maladies that may affect you as an attorney, especially if you have symptoms of burnout.

According to the WHO handbook, burnout is officially a disease. It comes from working so much that you are exhausted, inefficient, and basically sick of your job. That describes most associates at large law firms. So yeah, it's an epidemic. The good news, now you can get a prescription for it.

Work-Related

It almost sounds like a joke, but the WHO is serious. Everybody knows job-stress can kill you -- and lawyers in particular. With burnout, you could be half-way there. Here are the official symptoms:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from your job, or feelings of negativism related to your job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

The WHO handbook advises doctors to rule out other disorders before making a burnout diagnosis. Anxiety and mood disorders may require different treatments. Burnout comes from work, not other life situations. Doctors may prescribe medication, recommend time-off, or offer other therapies. Some workers, no doubt, will want a cannabis prescription to deal with the disorder. But marijuana generally doesn't help get people back to work.

Other Problems

In addition to the potential for abuse, a burnout diagnosis will not sit well with many employers. They can't legally fire you if you are on medical leave, but some will consider the disease to be a mental health disorder -- and nobody wants that on their resume. At the same time the WHO said burnout is a disease, it also classified gaming addiction as a mental health disorder. Gaming addicts let gaming take over all areas of their life for more than one year, and refuse to cut back despite negative consequences.

It applies to anybody who is lost in a virtual reality -- like attorneys who think they can play games with opposing counsel or the courts. Of course, that's a whole different kind of problem.

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