Workaholics may be more prone to several mental disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety, according to a new study led by the University of Bergen in Norway.
In it, researchers examined the links between workaholism and psychiatric disorders among 16,426 working adults.
“Workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than non-workaholics,” said researcher and Clinical Psychologist Specialist Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen, at the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen (UiB), and visiting scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
Among workaholics, 32.7 percent met ADHD criteria (compared to 12.7 percent among non-workaholics); 25.6 percent OCD criteria (8.7 percent among non-workaholics); 33.8 percent met anxiety criteria (11.9 percent among non-workaholics); and 8.9 percent met depression criteria (2.6 percent among non-workaholics).
“Thus, taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues. Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain,” said Schou Andreassen.
The pioneering study is co-authored by researchers from Nottingham Trent University and Yale University and published in the open-access journal PLOS One.
According to Schou Andreassen, the findings clearly highlight the importance of further studying the underlying neurobiological differences related to workaholic behavior.
“In wait for more research, physicians should not take for granted that a seemingly successful workaholic does not have ADHD-related or other clinical features. Their considerations affect both the identification and treatment of these disorders,” she said.
To identify addictive versus non-addictive behaviors, the researchers asked participants to rate themselves regarding their work motives. They rated the following phrases from one (never) to five (always):
- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression.
- You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
- You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
- You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
Scoring four (often) or five (always) on four or more criteria identify a workaholic. Approximately 7.8 percent of the total sample were classified as workaholics, a figure similar to findings in previous research.
The researchers used the Bergen Work Addiction Scale to identify the same symptoms as traditional addictions: salience, mood modification, conflict, tolerance, withdrawal, relapse, and problems.
Source: University of Bergen