Choosing Quiet Quitting vs. Burnout

We’ve all heard the expression, “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

That’s what I thought happened to me. I fell hard for my job of five years not because of its title or salary, but because I had a deep, genuine interest in the field. My workplace was a constant source of stimulation. I was able to socialize and be creative. It was easy to enter intense states of hyperfocus and lose track of time.

Sounds great, right?

What I didn’t realize then (I’d laugh and brush off my husband’s comments about it) was that my seemingly perfect workplace was turning me into a workaholic. Eventually, my inability to detach from work caught up to me when I burned out and abruptly resigned from the job I had poured so much of myself into.

Later, I learned that I have ADHD, and that its symptoms had fueled my work addiction.

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Workaholic and ADHD

Like other workaholics, my sense of self-worth was tied to my work. I dedicated and invested so much into my job partly because of the dopamine chase, and partly because I couldn’t say no. Still, I found myself envious of other late-20-somethings who had a healthy work-life balance, pursued hobbies, spent quality time with loved ones, and knew how to set boundaries. I didn’t know how to break out of the spiral. I let it consume me until I hit a breaking point.

My workplace burnout and everything leading up to it made perfect sense after I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was able to see patterns of intensity, compulsion, and hyperfocus in my schooling and throughout my professional career. I even learned that studies have linked workaholism and ADHD. My therapist helped me clearly define workaholism, and how ADHD symptoms and traits fed into it:

  • Feeling as if I’m “driven by a motor,” a symptom of hyperactivity, manifested in feeling compelled to work
  • My inability to regulate attention kept me hyperfocused on a task and working beyond what was expected of me, even if it meant foregoing other commitments
  • Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) turned me into a people-pleaser who couldn’t say no
  • Perfectionism, also tied to ADHD, led to thinking about work even during off hours
  • All-or-nothing thinking, common in people with ADHD, left no room for ambiguity. I had to complete every task now, and perfectly

Quiet Quitting and Work Engagement

So, I have ADHD and a tendency toward workaholism. What now?

[Read: “I Was So Worried About Getting Fired That My Anxiety Took Over… and I Got Fired for It”]

As I find my groove again in a new job, once again doing work I truly enjoy, I’m focusing on work engagement over workaholism. The former prioritizes making effort to find joy in work. The latter is driven by compulsion, dysregulation, and little to no joy in work. It’s a fine line to tread, and I’m still learning how to set boundaries.

Coincidentally (or not), my journey happens to align with the “quiet quitting” trend, popularized on social media, in which workers are thinking more seriously about boundaries, workplace expectations, and how they approach work altogether. While critics say quiet quitting means less engagement on the job, embracing the trend has done the opposite for me. It’s exactly what I needed to turn down the dial on work hours and turn it up on work satisfaction, which is arguably far more sustainable.

Now, I try to practice the following:

  • Never bring work home from the office. If I’m working from home, I’ll only do so in a dedicated space.
  • Avoid overcommitting and people-pleasing. Find the confidence to say no.
  • Follow the Pomodoro technique to avoid losing track of time and enjoy intentional rest.
  • Remember my worth as a person to cope when RSD comes up.
  • Do what the role requires, nothing more, nothing less. (My ADHD brain still has trouble with this!)

I’m still new to my diagnosis and to my new job. Nonetheless, I’m already at a much better place.  I’m happier, and so is my family. My career has not stalled, and I carry a quiet confidence knowing that my work can speak for itself, without reaching the point of burnout.

Workaholic, Quiet Quitting, & ADHD: Next Steps

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