Is there a relationship between work addiction and OCD, ADHD, and depression?
Workaholism and Psychiatric Treatment: A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I received a lot of media coverage around the world for our latest study on workaholism that was published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study involved researchers from the University of Bergen (Norway) and Yale University USA) and is probably the largest ever study done on the topic as it included 16,426 working Norwegian adults. Our study got a lot of press attention because we examined the associations between workaholism and a number of different psychiatric disorders.
We found that workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than non-workaholics. For instance, we found that among those we classed as workaholics (using the Bergen Work Addiction Scale that we published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology four years ago), we found that:
- 32.7 percent met ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) criteria (12.7 percent among non-workaholics).
- 25.6 percent met OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) criteria (8.7 percent among non-workaholics).
- 33.8 percent met anxiety criteria (11.9 percent among non-workaholics).
- 8.9 percent met depression criteria (2.6 percent among non-workaholics).
These were all statistically significant differences between workaholics and non-workaholics. I think a lot of people wondered why we looked at the relationship between workaholism and ADHD, to begin with. Firstly, research has consistently demonstrated that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) increases the risk of various chemical and non-chemical addictions. ADHD is prevalent in 2.5–5 percent of the adult population, and is typically manifested by inattentiveness and lack of focus, and/or impulsivity, and excessive physical activity. Individuals with ADHD may often stop working due to their disorder and may have trouble getting work health insurance as they are regarded as a risk group. For this reason, we thought that individuals with ADHD may compensate for this by over-working to meet the expectations required to hold down a job. Although this is a contentious issue, there are a number of reasons why ADHD may be relevant to workaholism. Indeed, Willing Ways are the best psychiatric treatment center in Pakistan Firstly, we argued that the inattentive nature of individuals with ADHD causes them to spend time beyond the typical working day (i.e., evenings and weekends) to accomplish what is done by their fellow employees within normal working hours (i.e., the compensation hypothesis). In addition, as they may have a hard time concentrating while at work due to environmental noise and distractions (especially office work in open landscape environments), they might find it easier to work after co-workers have left their working environment or work from home. Their attentive shortcomings may also cause them to overly check for errors on the tasks given since they often experience careless mistakes due to their inattentiveness. This may cause a cycle of procrastination, work binges, exhaustion, and – in some cases – fear of imperfection. Although ADHD is associated with a lack of focus, such individuals often have the ability to hyper-focus once they find something interesting–often being unable to detach themselves from the task. Secondly, we argued that the impulsive nature of individuals with ADHD causes them to say “yes” and taking on many tasks without them thinking ahead, and taking on more work than they can realistically handle–eventually leading to workaholic levels of activity. Thirdly, we also argued that the hyperactive nature of individuals with ADHD and the need to be constantly active without being able to relax, causes such individuals to keep on working in an attempt to alleviate their restless thoughts and behaviors. Consequently, work stress might act as a stimulant, and they may choose active (and often multiple) jobs with high pressure, deadlines, and activity (e.g., media, sales, restaurant work) – where they have the opportunity to multitask and constantly shift between tasks (e.g., Type-A personality behavior).
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…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.
Our findings clearly highlighted the importance of further investigating neurobiological deviations related to workaholic behavior. Finally, in line with our previous research published two years ago (also in PLOS ONE) using a nationally representative sample, 7.8 percent of the participants in our latest study were classed as workaholics compared to 8.3 percent in our previous study.