Link Suspected Between Workaholics And Mental Illness

Recent studies indicate that the statistics for mental health disorders among workaholics is higher than the stats for those who find more balance in their life-to-work schedule ratio. According to a report by Fox News Magazine, the illnesses linked to workaholics include anxiety, depression, and OCD, among others.

Cecilie Schou Andreassen, the lead author in this particular study, said that workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than the other participants.

The researchers involved in the study concluded that roughly one in four of their workaholic participants had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, one in three struggled with anxiety and related issues, and roughly 10 percent battled depression. The non-workaholics who deal with similar mental issues were about a quarter of their counterparts’ stats.

The study results were based on questions about whether the workaholic participants become agitated when they cannot make more free time for work, or if restriction from working is stressful.

However, in a report from WECT Channel 6 News, researchers insist that people who are just hard workers should not be lumped in the workaholic category, and the study results don’t explore the effects of late nights at the office on mental health. A Liverpool University professor spoke on the subject of the study and the potential links discovered, as well as the meanings behind them.

“Any human behavior can be turned into a disease. It’s this tendency to pathologize the usual messy realities of life, of which work is one.”

Researchers observed the possibility that genetics could play a part in the connection between workaholics and mental issues and disorders, according to Schou Andreassen. However, the study results did not provide definitive information on this particular angle.

“It is arguable that the term ‘workaholism’ is misused, and that in the majority of cases, it is only normal working behavior.”

A professor of social work and psychology at the University of Southern California, Steve Sussman said that there is much ambiguity on the subject, since people refer to the actions and behavior patterns of workaholics as being similar to those of an addict or a person with certain mental illnesses.

“Work [as an] addiction is not well-understood by many people. Some specialists question whether workaholism actually exists as an addiction… Previous research has linked workaholism to compulsive traits and anxiety.”

Assistant professor Malissa Clark, from the University of Georgia, commented as well.

“Many mental health professionals may not know about workaholism or have treatment plans for it. [Therapists can help patients] manage their workaholic tendencies, like developing strategies to help them ‘turn off’ work while they are at home or deal with poor marital quality and strained relationships with children.”

Clark also mentions these workers’ inability to commit to time off.

“Another thing workaholics can do to help themselves is to communicate with their supervisor about when they will — and when they won’t — be available when they are off the clock.”

They need more extensive research to determine the full extent of the connections between workaholics and mental health disorders. However, Shou Andreassen feels it is important to evaluate extreme workaholics instead of assuming it is just their specific work ethic.

“Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues… Physicians should not take for granted that a seemingly successful workaholic doesn’t have these disorders.”

Schou Andreassen said that, no matter how well a workaholic performs at work, it’s no indication of their overall mental status.

[Photo by Sydney O’Meara/Evening Standard/Getty Images]