Being a Workaholic Can Cause Serious Health Problems

Take the quiz to find out if your work ethic has become problematic. 

Photo by Siri Berting/Getty Images

You may pride yourself in working around the clock or burning the midnight oil, but a new study from the University of Bergen in Norway says that workaholism is no badge of honor. Instead, this lifestyle is frequently linked to a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression.

Researchers at the university studied more than 16,000 working adults, and found that they all had more psychiatric symptoms than their non-workaholic counterparts. To illustrate a few of the noticeable gaps: Almost one-third of employees met ADHD criteria (compared to less than 13 percent of non-workaholics) and almost 34 percent of workaholics met anxiety criteria (compared to less than 12 percent of non-workaholics). 

"Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues," lead researcher Cecilie Schou Andreassen said in a statement. "Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism, or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain."

To help identify workaholism, researchers developed a tool called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, which assesses the same symptoms associated with addiction: mood, conflict, tolerance, withdrawal, and relapse, among other things. 

Here, the seven criteria in the scale:

1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
6. You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

Think about your job over the course of the last year. Score the experiences above: It happened always (5) or never (1). If you rated 4s and 5s on four or more criteria, you likely identify as a workaholic. 

Need help breaking free from your email? See the one trick that could help you get your mind off of work.