Psychiatric Disorders Tied to Workaholism

In a Norwegian study at the University of Bergen, they tested 16,426 adults for traits of psychological disorders related to their level of workaholism. All of those who were considered workaholics scored higher on psychiatric symptoms. The top four psychiatric disorders prevalent among workaholics were Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression.

For each of these disorders, there is a marked difference in the rate that you see the disorder occur in workaholics versus the general public. For instance, 32.7% of workaholics scored high on the symptoms for ADHD, whereas only 12.7% of the general public did at the time.

For OCD, 25.6% of workaholics showed signs of the disorder, which can be quite debilitating depending on your job, whereas only 8.7% of the general public showed enough signs of the disorder to be considered as having the disorder.workaholic

Anxiety was very prevalent among workaholics with over a third showing signs. The exact percentage was 33.8. The percentage of the general public with anxiety symptoms is just 11.9%.

When it comes to depression, it’s important to note that of workaholics, 8.9% feel depressed while just 2.6% of the general public shows signs of depression.

All these figures show that “taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues,” says Cecilie Schou Andreassen, a researcher and Clinical Psychologist.

The University has come up with a list of criteria for diagnosing a workaholic so that they can get treatment for the underlying causes of the psychological or emotional disorders causing the behavior.

These seven criteria are:

  • The person often thinks of how they can free up more time to work, like skipping out on a lunch break or working late.
  • The person spends much more time working than they initially planned to and often misses planned time with others.
  • The person works in order to reduce the emotions they feel, or to try to ignore them altogether. These emotions could be feelings of anxiety, guilt, depression, or helplessness.
  • The person has been told by friends and family members to stop working so much, to go on a vacation, or to “leave work at work” but does not listen to them.
  • The person becomes physically and emotionally stressed if they are kept from working.
  • The person prioritizes work over their other activities like exercise, leisure activities, or hobbies that used to bring them enjoyment in life (especially when done with friends and family).
  • The person works so much that it has begun to hurt their health mentally, emotionally, and physically, and they don’t care when friends and family bring this up to them.

If a person scores a 4 or 5 on this list, then getting a psychiatric evaluation may help find what the underlying factors to their behavior are.