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When Work Becomes an Addiction

What is Work Addiction?

While many people strive for success, seek fulfilment and work for career progression in their respective industries, workaholism is a prevalent behavioural addiction. Work addiction causes a compulsive need to work, which can adversely affect other aspects of your life.

You may have been described as a ‘workaholic’ or a ‘perfectionist’ by colleagues at work, family at home or friends when you see them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are addicted to your job role. Work addiction is compounded by an inability to manage a preoccupation with working and can develop as a result of an intrinsic desire to achieve a certain status or level of success.

What Causes Work Addiction?

  • A desire to be seen as smarter or more competent.
  • A belief that worth as a person is attached to work. This can come from many sources, such as a parent who instilled that hard work is the only thing that matters in life.
  • A need for constant attention. Work addicts do get quite a bit of attention, especially from supervisors who may take advantage of having a workaholic on their teams.
  • Fear of losing money. Some work addicts come from families where poverty was common. Even if they are now comfortable and earning enough, they always feel like they could lose it all in an instant.
  • Fear of change. They know how to do their job, but they may not be as accomplished elsewhere. Therefore, the work addict never changes or tries anything new.
  • Worry of embarrassment. Many workaholics are perfectionists who never want to be seen making mistakes. They worry about being wrong and embarrassing themselves, so they work extra hard on everything they do.
  • Desire to avoid dealing with circumstances. Workaholics may have negative circumstances brewing at home. Rather than deal with emotions or problems, they simply work all the time.
  • Loneliness and fear of solitude. The workaholic may see work as a companion or a substitute for human interactions. They may have no relationships, and so they may fear being alone in a house without knowing what to do.

Of course, there’s a little snag. Some work addicts do honestly just enjoy their job! They simply like to work all the time, even if it’s at a detriment of everything else. Even so, what they may not realise is they’re setting themselves up to burn out.

Who is At Risk of Work Addiction?

We don’t know exactly why some people are more likely to become addicted to work while others are not. However, there are certain factors that may increase your risk, including:

  • Your personality. Individuals who are compulsive by nature or are known to set excessively high standards for themselves (including the feeling that nothing is ever up to par) are more likely to be workaholics.
  • Your job and education. Some studies, but not all, have found that work addiction occurs more often in college-educated employees and those at a management level. A 2012 study of 9,160 Dutch workers found that workaholism was more prevalent in certain fields, including agriculture, construction, commercial trade, communication and consulting.
  • Your family. Having at least one workaholic parent increases the likelihood of developing workaholism, according to a 2013 study of adult children of workaholic parents.

What Are The Signs of Work Addiction?

These signs and symptoms of work addiction share many characteristics with all other addictions, particularly other behavioural addictions.

Several signs of workaholism have been identified. They include:

  • Increased work time without an increase in productivity
  • Obsessively thinking about how you can make more time for work
  • Spending more time working than you originally intended (hours not minutes)
  • Excessive use of work to maintain your self-worth
    Working as a way to reduce feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness
  • Completely ignoring suggestions from others to cut down on work
  • Issues in personal relationships resulting from overwork or preoccupation with work
  • Health problems resulting from overworking
  • Using work as a way of coping with, escaping, or numbing feelings
  • Developing tolerance to work, so needing to work more to get the same effects
  • Becoming stressed if prevented from working or experiencing withdrawal if you are not working
  • Relapsing to overwork when you try and cut down or stop

Getting Help and Treatment Options For Work Addiction

If you think you may be addicted to work, try taking a break (if you can) and see how you react. If you are unable to switch off from thinking about work, and if you feel like you are trying to escape from responsibilities or uncomfortable feelings using work, you may benefit from treatment from a mental health professional.

At The Recovery Lodge we offer various treatments for all addictions, this includes behavioural addictions. You can contact us now at info@therecoverylodge.co.uk, on 01795 431751 and via our social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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