Managing stress and avoiding burnout: Part 1 – understanding stress and burnout

by Dr Sunil Raheja


Last reviewed: January 2017


Stress. We all think we know what it means, and as doctors most of us can claim to have experienced it at some time or another (or at least know someone who has).


The word 'stress' often crops up in everyday conversation. However, it can be confusing as it can refer to a wide range of mental, physical and social ill health issues.


Strictly speaking, stress is not a recognised medical condition. Even so, unrecognised it can go on to cause a number of long-standing ill effects including burnout as well as more general psychiatric morbidity.


The BMA quarterly tracker survey (April 2015) of approximately 3,000 doctors across the profession reported:


Morale and workload

  • 43% of respondents described their levels of morale as low or very low
  • 17% reported their morale as high or very high
  • GPs were more likely than any other group to report their workload as being unmanageable or unsustainable, with the percentage increasing from 62.5% to 73.5%
  • Junior doctors reporting their workload as unmanageable or unsustainable has also increased this quarter from 12.5% to 29.6%.



  • 11.5% of doctors admit they are presently suffering from burnout and 18.5% admit to previously suffering burnout
  • 41% of doctors say they are at high risk of suffering burnout in the near future
  • Over 39% of survey respondents admitted to frequently feeling drained, exhausted, overloaded, tired, low and lacking energy.


This module seeks to give an overview of current research on stress as it applies to doctors in general and psychiatrists in particular.


Start the module



If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Managing stress and avoiding burnout: Part 2 –taking action by Dr Sunil Raheja


Leadership and management series Part 1 – an introduction to leadership and management for psychiatrists by Dr Michael Hobkirk


Helping the addicted doctor by Dr Elizabeth Hare and Dr Malcolm Bruce


Book from RCPsych Publications: Management for Psychiatrists (4th edition)



BJPsych Advances: related articles for CPD Online



Related Advances articles


Download take-home notes to print and annotateDownload take-home notes to print and annotate


In the second module, Managing stress and avoiding burnout: Part 2 taking action, we suggest practical steps for dealing with stress and preventing burnout.


Please note that although each module has a different module test, the references are the same.



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