Working long hours may be extremely difficult to avoid in the modern day with the rise of technology.
Our phones and tablets always being “on us” receive e-mails, messages through whatsapp and skype, etc. all-day long. The advent of the laptop and the tablets also make working from “anywhere” that much easier. The world has also become fast pace and people want service quickly and promptly. There is almost no excuse not to deliver a product or service anytime anywhere due to the technological advance.
With the world being so fast paced and prices increasing all the time, people appear to have no choice but to work longer and harder in order to keep up. Working harder and longer might also mean having the chance to climb the corporate ladder, which leads to social approval.
With all the above in mind, it is possible to see how workaholism can become a significant problem and impact mental health. It is not yet defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual however if working long hours causes the individual significant distress and/or impacts negatively on their functioning in their occupation or other domains of their life then it surely could become a mental health issue.
This study has an interesting angle as usually having a mental illness (whether that be ADD/ADHD, OCD, Depression, Anxiety, etc.) impacts on that person’s occupational functioning by declining their occupational functioning. It is possible that an individual with a mental illness may put more effort into their work in order to prove themselves (as mental illness comes with its own stigmas), in order to hide the fact that they have a mental illness, and/or feel that they need to work longer and harder than the person next to them to get the job done.
However, it is difficult to say whether workaholism would cause the onset of a mental illness or if a mental illness would cause an individual to work extremely long and hard hours. Often mental illness has an onset in adolescence, which would then suggest the mental illness pre-dates work life. If this is the case it may suggest that individuals with mental illness in the work context may have an extra barrier to jump over (mental illness) while at work and therefore work longer and harder to get their job done.
Many factors play a part, as an individual may be more distracted due to the mental illness and therefore need more time to finish a job. Many individuals with mental illness have the need for perfectionism and this may also cause them to working longer and harder on a work task. Other significant factors may be that the individual with a mental illness may be having such difficulty in other domains of their life such as relationships with their spouse, other family members, friends, etc. that work may be a place of solitude for them or the better of two evils and they therefore spend more time working. However, it has been noted that working hard can cause significant stress and this stress can lead to anxiety and of course burn out, which may resemble symptoms of a depression.
As has been mentioned above, working long and hard hours can on its own cause significant stress. This stress may be excessive eustress, which is positive stress or it can cause distress, which is negative stress. Working hard may also inadvertently cause stress in other areas of a person’s life, as the long hours may decrease the time they spend with the family and friends or just going out and socialising. They may want to spend time with their loved ones but find it difficult to balance their home and work life. Their family may then place added stress on their shoulders as they crave more attention. This stress is significant as it is commonly known that an individual’s genetic make up (if they are susceptible to mental illness) and the environment around them (traumatic event, significant stress, etc.) can lead to the development of a psychiatric illness. Therefore, if the individual is prone to mental illness plus they have significant stress of long hard hours at work they may develop a mental illness (e.g. Depression, Anxiety Disorder, OCD, etc.).
Clients working long hard hours at work that causes them significant stress is commonly seen in my private practice. It has been common in my practice to see individual’s with a preexisting mental illness struggling at work but due to the stigma around mental illness they continue to trudge to work and work long hours to prove themselves and as they say “to put meat on the table”. However, the stress of work then exacerbates the individual’s psychiatric symptoms. If the person is physically sick they may take leave days from work but interestingly enough what I see is that when a person has a mental illness they appear extremely reluctant to take time off work. I do also see individuals without a pre-existing mental illness who come in to my practice reporting that the stress of work is causing them to have mental difficulties. It has been common to see individuals in this instance reporting burn-out or depression symptoms, anxiety disorder symptoms and OCD symptoms. It has not however been common to see individuals reporting Adult ADD/ADHD symptoms due to stress from working long hard hours in my practice though.