Work Addiction, Related To Psychiatric Disorders

Some psychopathologies could go hand in hand with addiction to work. Which?

Addictions are usually culturally associated with the small pleasures in life that most of the population recognizes as such: sweet or carbohydrate food, Internet use, tobacco (for smokers), etc. 

However, addictive behaviors related to tasks can also occur that not everyone appreciates. Work addiction is one such example.

Work addiction and other associated psychopathologies

Workaholism , or workaholism in English, may seem positive from a productivity point of view in the short term, but it has very negative health consequences. The fact of dedicating more time than necessary to work causes the rhythms of food and sleep to change and they are much more compressed in the schedules, that the hours of rest are scarce and that the levels of stress soar, in addition to impoverishing life social of people.

However, a study recently published in PLoS ONE links work addiction not only to health problems, but also to fatigue and poor diet, and also to the risk of symptoms associated with  mental disorders .

OCD, depression ADHD …

The results found show a correlation between work addiction and similarities with the symptoms of disorders such as  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) ,  depression or  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Thus, workaholics or work addicts have a tendency to present mental disorders in a greater proportion than the population that does not experience this type of addiction.

This research is based on the study of 1,300 people residing in Norway, who filled out a series of questionnaire pages. Each of these volunteers received a score on an option-based workaholism scale such as “How often in the last year have you worked so hard that your health suffered from it?” But, in addition, the questionnaire included questions about indicators of certain mental disorders.

The link, or significant correlation, between the presence of work addiction and sets of symptoms associated with mental disorders emerged after these data had been crossed with each other. Specifically, around 8% of the participants showed tendencies to workaholism, and among these people the proportion of those affected by disorders was much higher.

Specifically, 32.7% of the people whose characteristics coincided with those of the workaholic presented symptoms associated with ADHD, while for the rest of the volunteers the percentage was 12.7%. 25% of them could present OCD, and 33% stress disorders. As for the proportion of people whose description matched the diagnostic criteria for depression among workaholics, it was 9%, and 2.6% among the rest of the group of volunteers.

Conclusions and reflections

These results are not so surprising when we consider how far the effects of work addiction can extend into modern life. With the widespread use of laptops, tablets and smartphones with Internet access, working hours are increasingly becoming hours that were previously dedicated to leisure, and are mixed with housework and personal life out of the office.

New workaholics do not have a clear reference to know when the professional side ends and when the hours dedicated to leisure, rest or family conciliation begin. That is why, if before work addiction was limited to the walls of the building where you work, now these walls have fallen and the horizon of possibilities to add hours to work (and subtract them from private life) has expanded far beyond what is sometimes healthy.

In light of studies like this we can come to a clear conclusion. The tools and strategies to prevent the appearance to work must not only carry the responsibility of becoming efficient workers in the long term, away from the burnout syndrome that can cause our productivity to plummet, but, more fundamentally, they must preserve our levels of health and well-being. 

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