Burnout Syndrome in Professional Workers Who Deal with Treated Alcoholics
Prazetina, Ivana, Alcoholism
Summary - This study is the first dealing with burnout syndrome of professional the workers engaged in work with treated alcoholics. Those professional workers are particularly exposed to the burnout syndrome because of their specific work. The aim of this study was to investigate if the professional workers recognized the burnout syndrome in work with treated alcoholics, if they suffered from the burnout syndrome, which profession is the most affected with the burnout syndrome and if there were any differences in social - demographic features, and to see to the strategies of self-help as well. The study included 40 professional workers (doctors, social workers, nurses, psychologist...). For this study, a special questionnaire had been formed, and the data quantitatively analyzed. The analysis of the results showed that 1/3 of the professional workers had significant symptoms of burnout according to orientation data range of the Burnout Syndrome Questionnaire. Professional workers who found their work fulfilling had the lowest mean results of the burnout syndrome and the difference was statistically significant. Tendency for burnout was clearly seen in those who defined their work as exhausting. As the professional workers spend more years working with treated alcoholics their total burnout syndrome result rises. Male doctors tend to have higher burnout syndrome results in comparison to other professions. (Alcoholism 2005; 41: 87-99)
Key words: Professional workers; Burnout syndrome; Treated alcoholics; Self-help strategies
Professional stress1 represents an imbalance of workplace requirements and surroundings with our abilities, wishes and expectations concerning fulfilling these requirements. The long-term exposure to professional stress results in the burnout syndrome, the most unfavorable outcome, which affects particularly the "helping professions" (psychiatrists, social workers, nurses...).2 One of the definitions states that the burnout syndrome is a gradual process in which once a productive and responsible worker loses all interest in his/her work or profession.3 It is a cumulative process that comes with small warning signs. Years can go by till symptoms are manifested as psychological or emotional problems as these signs are often diminutive. The burnout syndrome consists of four stages. The first stage, beginners enthusiasm is characterized by unreal expectations and self-investing of helper followed by high level of energy and good achievements. Second one is a stagnation stage in which helper starts to understand that work isn't as imagined, which is followed by the first appearance of physical and psychological exhaustion, pessimism and a lack of satisfaction with work. Isolation stage is the third stage, characterized by emotional withdrawal, avoiding contacts with colleagues, depression, negativism, angriness and hostility. Syndrome progression continues, sped by physical difficulties (chronic exhaustion, insomnia, headache, allergies etc.). Apathy and a lack of life interests, as a final stage, are the results of chronic frustration and complete lack of interest. Characteristics symptoms are loss of self-confidence, cynicism, serious emotional difficulties, not being able to communicate and work with colleagues and diminished interpersonal relations.4
The burnout syndrome can be stopped before the helper arrives at the last stage. The whole process can be turned the other way around by changing the working goals, attitudes and behaviors in the work surroundings,5 as the cause of professional stress can be internal and external.
The mental help of professional workers is at risk because of their everyday need to communicate with treated alcoholics, listen to the life problems, traumatic events, losses and similar issues.6 They are mostly unaware of how this line of work affects them and they avoid asking for help. Not recognizing the burnout syndrome, professional workers are themselves at risk of developing a negative attitude towards the treated alcoholics and provide ineffective and inadequate help. …