Link between ADHD, Anxiety, OCD, Depression and Workaholism

A 2016 study examining patients diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, OCD, and depression found that people with these conditions were more likely to have difficulty maintaining work/life balance (commonly referred to as workaholism). The strongest association occurred in patients with ADHD. Research suggests that many people with ADHD tend to put in extra work hours, because they feel less productive than their coworkers and they try to make up for it. Sometimes people try to compensate for feelings of inadequacy they may experience, due to a life of coping with ADHD symptoms.

There is an old saying that “Idle hands are the devil's playground." That couldn't be more true than for a person with ADHD. Many patients tell me that they often feel the most comfortable or least stressed while they are at work, when their mind is engaged in something they do well and enjoy. Patients will say they feel more stressed, depressed, or anxious when they come home in the evenings or on weekends. Some tell me they even feel anxious on vacation if it involves too little stimulation for their mind. People with ADHD are people with active minds who tend to do best when their mind is engaged in activities they enjoy.

However, the opposite can be true as well. Individuals with ADHD are susceptible to burnout if they don't maintain a balance between work and home life. As this study shows, patients with ADHD are more likely to be workaholics than non-ADHD individuals. In my experience, when people with ADHD overwork themselves it leads to stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction; especially if they work in a field that is not gratifying. “Too much” is highly individualized; what is too much for one person may be the perfect amount for another. In my own life, I've found that I experience the most anxiety any time that I've had too much or too little to do.

If you are a young person considering a career, don't choose one that pays the most money. Consider pursuing a viable opportunity for employment, one that engages you while also providing sufficient income. Choose something you are passionate about, if you're able to make a living at it. I believe most people will feel unhappy with their jobs if they don't truly enjoy their work, no matter how much it pays.

The moral of the story: Find a balance. If you are a person with ADHD, engage your mind as often as you can... but maintain a balance. I believe that many of the co-existing issues that occur with ADHD can stem from either over- or under-working the ADHD brain. Neither leads to a good outcome. My advice to you: If you don't enjoy your job, consider changing to one that is more rewarding, if this is a possibility. If this isn't possible, then find a way to achieve balance in your free time. Pursue hobbies that stimulate your mind! People with ADHD who don't find a creative outlet for their minds will inevitably develop anxiety, depression, and other comorbid issues.

There are a million ways to skin a cat! Pursue hobbies that keep you mentally or physically active. I'm not recommending any specific hobby, but I highly advise against skinning cats as your hobby ;)

Here is the original study, if you're interested in learning more: