Work Addiction

Work addiction is a type of addiction that may not be taken as seriously as it should. It's not the same thing as someone working hard or trying to keep their job. It's an obsessive-compulsive behavior that can lead to some serious consequences.

What is Work Addiction?

Unlike a person who wants to be a good employee or is a driven entrepreneur, work addicts don't have a sense of balance in their lives. Even when they are away from work, they can't stop thinking about work or doing some activity associated with work. Even if they are told that they are damaging their health or that their personal relationships are suffering, they keep up the same demanding work schedule.

Signs of Work Addiction

Here are some signs that may indicate a work addiction:

  • Always in a hurry to get things done
  • Anxiety when you aren't at work
  • Denying that you have a problem when confronted about it
  • Health problems caused by lack of sleep, exercise, and/or proper diet
  • Inability to relax while on vacation or spending time with family due to work
  • Irritability
  • Spending time at work instead of with family and/or friends
  • Thinking that you are the only one who can do the job "right"

Causes of Addiction

There may be a physical component to addiction to work. People with this type of addiction may be drawn to careers that are demanding or stressful. They find that they enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with responding to situations at work. To recreate the "rush" repeatedly, they spend an excessive amount of time at work so that they can be where the action is.

Another reason why someone may develop an addiction to work is low self-esteem. The work addict may come from a family where nothing they did was ever quite good enough, so they put forth an extraordinary effort at work to show that they are worthy. Unfortunately, they are so focused on trying to achieve perfection that they may not be able to complete their work or projects, because nothing is ever quite right. Other work addicts grew up in a household where a parent was an addict, and they are constantly trying to control their environment, since they were unable to do so as children. 

Consequences of Work Addiction

Being a work addict has negative consequences for the individual, which may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Attempted suicide/suicide
  • Depression
  • Relationship breakdown, separation, and/or divorce
  • Increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
  • Ulcers

Help and Treatment for Work Addiction

With help, a work addict can learn to have a more balanced life. Seeing a therapist with experience treating workaholics is one way to change behaviors. Since this is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, medications may be prescribed to help treat this addiction. Making an appointment with your primary care physician is a good idea, since workaholism can lead to health issues. Deciding you want to stop and get treatment for work addiction is the first step.

Beyond Quitting: Work Addiction Recovery and Rehabilitation

Continuing to see a counselor is the right choice for some work addicts in recovery. Others find that a 12-step program, such as Workaholics Anonymous, is a good source of help and support to help them keep balance in their lives. The same goes for interacting with people with the same addiction.