Workaholics are more likely to suffer from mental health problems

An obsession with working may point to serious mental health conditions

Workaholics exhibit more behaviors linked to psychiatric disorders than those who are not obsessed with working, according to a new study published in PLOS ONE.

Researchers at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway studied the connections between working too much and psychiatric disorders among 16,426 working adults.

Researchers used seven criteria to identify the difference between addictive and non-addictive behavior. Study participants answered how often the following experiences occurred on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 being never and 5 being always:

  • You become stressed if you cannot work;
  • You have ignored people who have told you to cut down on work;
  • You put work before your hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise;
  • You spend much more time working than initially intended;
  • You think of how you can free up more time to work;
  • You work so much that it has negatively affected your health; or
  • You work to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression.

Workaholics were identified as those who scored a 4 (often) or 5 on at least four criteria, with 7.8% of respondents classified as workaholics.

Stressful jobs can shorten your life

Among workaholics:

  • 32.7% met ADHD criteria (12.7% among non-workaholics);
  • 33.8% met anxiety criteria (11.9% among non-workaholics);
  • 25.6% met OCD criteria (8.7% among non-workaholics); and
  • 8.9% met depression criteria (2.6% among non-workaholics).

"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," says researcher Cecilie Schou Andreassen, a clinical psychologist specialist at the UiB and visiting scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles. "Their considerations affect both the identification and treatment of these disorders" (University of Bergen/Science Daily, 5/25).

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