Eric Boydens pioneer in burnout.

The Antwerp GP - and trusted friend - Eric Boydens, MD, strives for a better approach to stress and burnout in the doctor's office. According to him, about 70% of the physical complaints with which patients go to their doctors are psychosocial. This means that 70% of the cases can be partially or completely solved through treating or reducing stress.

Hippocrates promotes stress prevention.

The founder of the medical science, the Greek doctor Hippocrates (460 B.C.), already wrote that 'the most important protection from illness is found in moderation and a healthy lifestyle'. He continues: "Being healthy is a natural circumstance for human beings. When you fall ill, this is because nature has gotten off track because of a physical or mental imbalance. The path to health for a human being is found in moderation, harmony, and 'a healthy soul in a healthy body'". If that is not stress prevention avant la lettre! Long before the words burnout or stress were part of our vocabulary. According to Eric Boydens, MD, the general practitioner is the perfect first person in line to help guide a patient through burnout and stress. He therefore believes that more means are needed to support the general practitioner in this tasks. He therefore took the initiative to, a few years ago, start educating general practitioners more properly in supportive skills for the recognition, treatment, and prevention of burnout or stress. According to him, many stress and burnout issues can quickly be treated by the general practitioner and be treated in a preventive way before the escalate and become more serious issues such as depression, chronic stress, hyperventilation, panic attacks, phobia, psychosomatic complaints, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or even psychiatric issues which require specialized and long-term psychotherapy.

Your general practitioner guides you.

That is the reason why the additional education for GPs is a good initiative: because it helps people to find their mental balance again, which doctor Hippocrates already spoke about in ancient times: treating stress and burnout before they ruin the mental balance even further and thereby lead to disease.

Burnout prevention in general practitioners and patients.

Eric Boydens, MD, hopes to be able to build up a network which helps general practitioners to deal with stress and burnout earlier on and in a preventive way. Preventing is better than healing! His initiative started with the notion that general practitioners and specialists themselves are very vulnerable to burnout. He noticed that many colleagues themselves had been affected already. This gave Eric Boydens the idea to supply the doctors with support themselves, the goal being to first help the doctor to help themselves, so that they can then calmly - instead of being burnt out - help others in the treatment of burnout and stress.

Burnout prevention prevents chronic fatigue syndrome (cfs).

On the 27th of January, the permanent extra training of general practitioners of Gasthuisberg in Leuven organized a medical study evening regarding the treatment of the chronic fatigue syndrome, abbreviated to CFS. The initiative was led by Professor Doctor Bert Aertgeerts from Leuven, and coordinated in Antwerp by Eric Boydens, MD. Eric Boydens' main message was that preventing is better than healing. That is why he mainly believes in better investment when it comes to early detection and prevention of developing stress and burnout in the doctor's practice. Thousands of GPs get potential candidates for a negative evolution toward chronic fatigue syndrome in their office on a daily basis. At that time, even small supportive interventions or conversations can be enough to prevent an evolution from stress to burnout or even to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The issue which Boydens mentioned is the way in which our main healthcare provision is organized and reimbursed: little time is left for the doctor to have many talks which take a lot of time, considering that the waiting room is often full. There is a GP shortage, especially when it comes to educated general practitioners with education regarding solution focused burnout conversation. You can reach Eric Boydens, MD, via 03/232 86 77 at his office at 'Huisartsen Koraalberg'.

Self-help program as solution for burnout?

The role of a good self-help program is that it guides you every day and that you, with small steps, learn to once again discover what it is that gives you energy and in which areas you should take it easy. Every day you are guided for fifteen minutes in helping yourself. The self-help program is your coach to some extent, while your doctor is more of a general supervisor. Most burnout patients experience the daily supporting character of 15 Minutes 4 Me to be a great help, especially on days which are more difficult to get through.

Test if you are at risk for burnout

We developed a free self-test to measure a few symptoms of burnout with the help of some simple questions. Take this free self-test here.

Paul Koeck, MD