Sick from boredom? As critics believe, Boreout is just a new name for an old (and completely normal) phenomenon, namely boredom in the workplace, overqualification, underchallenge. However, psychologists believe that this is a serious problem of a disease nature.
What is Boreout Syndrome?
According to howsmb, boreout syndrome stands for stress caused by underload. This means that boreout can be described as the counterpart to burnout. Because even with burnout there is a discrepancy between the performance, the talents and abilities of the employee and the demands of the work. The difference, however, is that the employee is underutilized in the boreout.
Most of the time, the boreout occurs at work and could be mistaken for laziness. But those affected like to work in principle and are looking for recognition and challenges. If these cannot be fulfilled and the work is perceived as uninteresting, excessive boredom sets in and attempts are made to avoid the work. Sometimes those affected try not to let the dissatisfaction at work and the lack of motivation show, because they fear for their job.
The causes are mostly a high level of intelligence or a good and highly qualified education or specific talents that are not in demand at work. There may be interest in the work and goodwill at the beginning, later on the repetition leads to an aversion. This can increase to such an extent that the person is no longer able to continue the work even with external compulsion, great effort and willpower.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
In the case of the boreout syndrome, the person concerned usually feels exhausted, very tired and listless. Even simple tasks that used to be done on the side can seem like big, insurmountable hurdles. It is usually difficult for those affected to even begin a task. Concentration problems often arise very quickly during an activity.
If the task to be mastered is of a physical nature, then sometimes purely physical and apparently muscular problems of fitness and strength arise. Many sufferers also suffer from a depressed mood, which can worsen to severe depression. Self-esteem is affected, and patients tend to have little regard for themselves and their own abilities.
The challenges in life are missing, mostly in direct professional life, and so, in addition to natural ambition, one’s own drive and pleasure in work also dwindle. This often leads to the fact that work is only carried out with little commitment and that concentration decreases.
As more errors occur in execution in this way, those affected often get the impression that they can no longer cope with even the simplest tasks. This closes a vicious circle and increases both frustration and displeasure. The person concerned becomes apathetic and is often no longer able to improve their situation.
Complaints about the amount of work that actually does not exist because there is little to be done are also typical. The employee arrives early for work and is the last to leave the company. The consequences for those affected by the boreout are fatal. Frustration and fatigue spread, there is listlessness and, in extreme cases, depression. The employee hardly dares to do anything and cannot find a way out of the unsatisfactory situation.
Without treatment, boreout syndrome is likely to worsen if the underload is not eliminated. The constant boredom and lack of exercise can lead to depression (major depression or dysthymia), sleep disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example.
In addition, feelings of inferiority are possible: The person concerned does not feel needed or put off. He may blame himself for his situation or assume that something is wrong with himself. With a boreout at the workplace, this impression can arise especially when colleagues appear busy.
However, feigning activity is another possible consequence of Boreout Syndrome. For fear of losing their job or being considered lazy, those affected sometimes look for fictitious tasks or artificially drag out actual work tasks. However, this deception also maintains the underchallenge.
Boreout syndrome is often only recognized when other psychological problems arise. On the one hand, the syndrome itself is relatively unknown; on the other hand, those affected are often only aware of the stress themselves when more serious complications occur. In part, therefore, the motivation for therapy is also a problem.
Although underwork and boredom are in the foreground in Boreout Syndrome, it is also a form of stress. In many cases, deep relaxation is completely lacking in Boreout Syndrome. For this reason, a burnout syndrome can develop from the boreout.
When should you go to the doctor?
Temporary boredom and short periods of underwork are perfectly normal and do not necessarily indicate Boreout Syndrome. Many working people experience more hectic and quieter times; interesting and monotonous tasks alternate. In the monotonous phases, mild depressive symptoms can manifest themselves. However, a visit to a doctor is usually not necessary.
However, if the psychological symptoms persist and the feeling of indifference and dullness does not subside, a medical evaluation makes sense. These and other depressive symptoms that occur without any external cause and persist, should be examined more closely after two weeks.
The family doctor is a suitable contact person for an initial diagnosis. A blood test can clarify whether, for example, there is a deficiency that could explain the symptoms. If no physical cause can be determined, a visit to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist is advisable.
Those affected often only seek professional help if they have been suffering from the boreout syndrome for a long time. In such a situation, those affected can also contact a psychotherapist or psychiatrist directly, as physical causes have usually already been ruled out. Urgent thoughts of suicide and other acute situations in which boreout patients no longer know what to do are also a legitimate reason to turn to a clinic for psychiatry and psychotherapy for immediate and intensive support.
Treatment & Therapy
First and foremost, the person concerned must recognize the problem. Anyone who is affected by the boreout should first honestly answer the question of how much time they really spend on work and how much just pretend. He should ask himself which work is particularly uninteresting and boring and which work actually interests him. The next step is personal initiative.
The affected person could look for a new job or ask his boss for more interesting tasks. If possible, this should be formulated in such a way that the supervisor is told that you can do more than the previous work. It would also be important to find a balance in your free time. But that is seldom possible for those affected because so much energy flows into the unloved work.
However, those who cannot help shape their work and cannot create a balance will only carry out the work with great reluctance and under certain circumstances not at all. A good salary cannot necessarily have a compensatory effect, although without it the work would of course be even worse, as monetary recognition would then also be missing.
One obstacle in healing the boreout is that the boreout can lead to the fact that the employee, due to his lack of interest, does not satisfactorily perform tasks that are too simple for him and makes serious mistakes even in the simplest of activities. From this the superior can draw the conclusion that his employee is not able to solve more complex tasks. But exactly the opposite would be the case: With more complex tasks and greater self-determination, errors occur less often.
Outlook & forecast
Since Boreout syndrome is not a disease in its own right, there is no reliable prognosis for the course of the disease. In order to assess the prospect of recovery, however, one can look at the particular mental illness that results from it.
Boreout syndrome often leads to clinical depression. The prognosis is most favorable when the person concerned suffers from a depressive episode for the first time. In this case, there is a 50% chance that depression will return unless specific relapse prophylaxis is used. After the second, third, and fourth episodes, the long-term prognosis is generally poorer. The duration of the depressive episodes can vary widely even in the same person. 15–20% of depressive episodes last longer than a year.
Depressed people who have no other mental illnesses often recover faster and more completely than those who have multiple comorbidities. In this sense, the Boreout Syndrome is not considered a comorbid condition, as it only explains the underlying reasons for the depression.
Specific and early treatment can have a positive effect on the prognosis. With appropriate prevention, the likelihood of relapse after a depressive episode is lower. In the boreout syndrome, as in the burnout syndrome, external factors play an important role. A higher resistance to these influences can therefore influence the individual prognosis as well as the change in the personal environment.
Preventing boreout depends only to a very limited extent on the individual and what interests and talents they actually have. For a mathematician, for example, who only gets into top form when he can solve complex problems, the job market doesn’t yield too much.
Chances are, a job in insurance or finance might not keep him busy – let alone simpler jobs. It would therefore be advisable not to look for a simpler activity in your “own” area, but rather a completely different one that reflects another facet of your own personality. Incidentally, it is not always advisable to turn your hobby into a profession that then has to serve as a livelihood.
You can do that yourself
If underload, monotony and boredom determine the life of those affected and there is no sense in an activity, there are opportunities for self-help to free yourself from the dilemma. First of all, the person concerned should reflect on their situation in life and check their own behavior.
If the person concerned is ready for additional tasks in everyday work, he should speak openly about this to his work colleagues and superiors. In the course of a clarifying discussion, the person concerned can find out whether there are new tasks for him to make the work more interesting. With further training, those affected can satisfy their greed for new knowledge and thus possibly also be fit for a new job.
It is important that people find a balance between their individual skills and the tasks and challenges to be solved. If the person concerned does not get any opportunities for new activities after a clarifying discussion, a change of job is advisable. Relaxation exercises, autogenic training or qigong are often used to alleviate the stressful symptoms of a boreout syndrome.
Artistic activities, such as active music-making or painting, in the person’s free time can also have a positive effect on body, mind and soul. If you like to be active and want to feel your body, you can also incorporate sporting activities into your life.