Learned Helplessness and the Normalization of Burnout


Is burnout becoming normalized?

Our Psychiatry & Society video series is taking a short break. For now, enjoy this rerun with additional new commentary.

Last February 23, 2022, our video was on “Remembering Love of Work to Prevent Burnout,” in which we discussed the obstacles of the epidemic of burnout of physicians which was spreading to the rest of our society. Now, the recently released annual 2023 survey of burnout in physicians, for which we did a pop-up column, indicates a further escalation of burnout to the extent that it is almost becoming normalized. Yes, self-care with work-life balance, exercise, and other interests can help, but not nearly enough. Clearly, the for-profit control of medicine is the main causative factor. Profits seemingly come before patient care. Younger physicians may not know the difference in practice. Elder physicians, like myself, are retiring earlier. A small mental health care work strike against Kaiser Northern California did seem to succeed, although psychiatrists did not take part.

The pandemic is at least in a less severe stage, which provides another opportunity to learn what we were missing and what can be improved. Will we take advantage of this perspective to improve well-being for patients and health care professionals or will we we succumb with learned helplessness?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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