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In this chapter, we proposed an overview of burnout, from the introduction of the construct in the mid-1970s to the growing realization that the syndrome was better conceived of as a depressive condition. Recent studies have shown that the distinction between burnout and depression is problematic, both theoretically and empirically. The history of burnout research suggests that transdisciplinary communication and methodological standards should be strengthened to avoid the proliferation of constructs that, in fact, refer to the same phenomena. Construct proliferation, a transgression of the scientific canon of parsimony, is considered a major problem today because it undermines theory building and, consequently, slows research advance. The pioneers of burnout research, who were coming from the fields of clinical and social psychology, paid little attention to the work accomplished by their colleagues in other areas of psychology (e.g., behavioral psychology) as well as psychiatry and neurobiology. Because a new construct should not be introduced into the scientific literature without careful consideration of its added value vis-à-vis related, already-available constructs, such neglectfulness has been problematic. We recommend that investigators concentrate their present and future efforts on (a) coordinating dimensional and categorical approaches to depression, (b) further developing a flexible, multiscale (e.g., sub-individual, individual, interpersonal, social) framework for the study of depressive conditions, and (c) better understanding how the forms taken by depression can vary as a function of the duration and intensity of the unresolvable stress experienced by the individual.


This work was originally published in " Understanding depression: Volume 2. Clinical manifestations, diagnosis and treatment," edited by Y.-K. Kim.



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