High Functioning Anxiety and Eating Disorders in Corporate America – Part II

Woman focusing on her career

In Part I of this series, we discussed what the “culture of corporate America” is. Specifically, the tendency of Americans to work burdensome hours, eat lunch quickly at their desks, not use vacation days, answer work correspondence outside of working hours, and, in general, “living to work” as opposed to “working to live.”

Such an emphasis on work before self-care can have many harmful impacts. For Part II, let’s explore more directly how this corporate culture increases one’s vulnerability to anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.

Unique Risk Factors of Corporate America

A great deal of research has been done on how highly competitive and stressful workplace environments impact employee anxiety It should be wholly unsurprising that the more competitive and intense a workplace, the more likely employees are to experience symptoms of anxiety.

As such, working alone does not put one at risk for developing anxiety or anxiety-related disorders. This is why examining American work ethic ideals is so important, as studies find that many of the work beliefs and behaviors that American corporate culture values are also proven to be risk factors for anxiety.

One of these factors is found in almost every workplace in America – over-commitment. A study in France found this to be one of the most impactful factors related to work-related development of mental illnesses such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) [1].

Emphasized Traits

Woman working in corporate americaAs mentioned in Part I, American corporate culture emphasizes over-commitment, with employees working long hours, not taking scheduled breaks or vacations, and engaging in overtime either by physically remaining at the office or answering work correspondence when off-the-clock.

In fact, over-commitment is often viewed as a desirable trait in American corporate culture. Leadership or management often sees it as a measurement of how much an individual is truly dedicated to the workplace mission.

The study found numerous other risk factors for MDD and GAD that are commonly seen in corporate America culture, such as high emotional or psychological demands, low reward, and job insecurity [1].

Another survey completed by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that the main contributors to their workplace distress are: deadlines, relationships at work, staff management, and dealing with issues that arise [2].

It is unsurprising that many of these connect to interpersonal management and relationships at work, as American workplaces are known to be highly competitive and emphasize personal promotion and company growth over positive employee interactions and workplace relationships.

Finally, Frederick Herzberg’s studies around workplace satisfaction in the 1950s and the 1960s gave rise to his famous Two-Factor Theory, which found that factors such as status, relationship with supervisors and peers, work conditions, and salary are related to employee dissatisfaction, which increases vulnerability to anxiety [3].

The consensus of risk factors makes it clear that many of the factors related to increased anxiety and anxiety disorder development are prevalent in corporate America culture.

In Part III, the final part of this series, we will connect the notion of American work ethic, anxiety, and eating disorder development to further consider how corporate culture in the United States is putting individuals at increased risk for mental illness.


[1] Murcia, M. Et al. (2013). Psychosocial work factors, major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders: results from the French National SIP study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 146:3.

[2] Unknown (2020). Workplace stress and anxiety disorders survey. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/workplace-stress-anxiety-disorders-survey.

[3] MindTools Content Team (2020). Herzberg’s motivators and hygiene factors. Mind Tools, retrieved from

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published November 18, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on November 18, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.