Workaholism has ties with psychiatric disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, and OCD according to a new large-scale, national Norwegian study. And it may be a compelling reason to check if you have a number of the diagnostic criteria developed by the researchers for this addictive behavior.

A team from the University of Bergen in Norway found that workaholics tend to exhibit signs of these psychiatric disorders compared with their non-workaholic counterparts. They tested 16,426 working adults to arrive at the findings.

“Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues,” warned researcher and Clinical Psychologist Specialist Cecilie Schou Andreassen, adding it remains unknown whether the behavior is reflective of genetic issue, the disorders causing the workaholism, or vice versa.

Among workaholic individuals, 33.8 percent had anxiety, versus 11.9 percent in non-workaholics. Compared to just 12.7 percent in non-workaholics, 32.7 percent of these adults also met criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Among workaholics, too, 25.6 percent had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) while 8.9 percent demonstrated depression.

But how do you know if you’re a workaholic? The researchers developed seven criteria under the Bergen Work Addiction Scale:

  • Thinking how you can free up more time to work
  • Spending much more time working than initially intended
  • Working in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression
  • Have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them
  • Becoming stressed if you are prohibited from working
  • Deprioritizing hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work
  • Working so much that it has negatively influenced your health

Scoring 4 (Often) to 5 (Always) on a scale of 1 to 5 on four criteria or more identifies workaholic behavior.

Of the present sample, 7.8 percent were classified as workaholics, which approximates the estimated 8.3 percent detected in a national study conducted by the same team in 2014.

The authors did not fully explore the workaholism-psychiatric disorders link. They suggested, for instance, that some OCD patients’ tendency to compulsively control or organize their stuff could lead to work addiction.

The paralyzing drive to obsess over details, the authors explained, may predispose some workers with such trait and related OCD behaviors to develop workaholic patterns in their lives.

It is crucial to note, however, that OCD is a complicated condition and generally has four main categories: checking, hoarding, physical/mental contamination, and rumination or intrusive thoughts. It could be difficult to gauge using the current data if perfectionist leanings in a “checking” OCD type fit the workaholic mold.

The findings are discussed in the journal PLOS ONE.

A study in the British Medical Journal last year found that working long hours may be driving one to drink and become an alcoholic.

Photo: Miki Yoshihito | Flickr

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