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Work Addiction

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Work addiction, sometimes called workaholism, has become widespread in recent years, affecting people from all backgrounds and cultures.

Studies show that five to ten per cent of the global population struggles with work addiction. In addition, women are more likely to struggle with work addiction than men, affecting around one-quarter of female employees.

Nowadays, people are at higher risk of developing work addiction mainly due to the pressures of modern living.

Other factors that may play a role in work addiction are consumerism and social media, where many people face enormous pressure to succeed and maintain societal expectations.

Work addiction can be challenging to recognise, particularly in cultures where hard work is rewarded and working around the clock is expected.

However, understanding the signs and symptoms of work addiction can help you avoid the health risks associated with this mental health condition.

Here, we will explore work addiction, its symptoms, and effective treatment options that can help.

“Workaholism” – a harmless addiction?

In many cultures, hard work is perceived as the ‘norm’, and those who devote themselves to their career tend to be the most valued in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, many of those who work the most hours also accumulate the most wealth.

As a result, it’s often said that workaholism is one of the few ‘harmless’ addictions that exist today. However, this couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Work addiction is defined as a behavioural addiction by mental health professionals.

Like substance addiction, a person achieves a ‘high’ from working and continues engaging in these behaviours despite any adverse effects.

Mental health issues

When their lifestyles begin taking a toll on their physical and mental health, workaholics may struggle to seek professional help.

Those addicted to work tend to put pressure on themselves to overachieve and excel professionally.

Individuals with work addiction may also feel insurmountable pressure from others. As a result, they may continue working long hours to maintain the helpful, hardworking image they often portray to the outside world.

Work addiction can easily be confused with enthusiasm and job commitment. 

However, there is a fine line between ambition and addiction.

Who is most likely to be a workaholic?

Like any addiction, various factors may increase your risk of developing a work addiction.

Studies show that those with specific personality characteristics may be more likely to develop work addiction.

For instance, those who score high in perfectionism may be more susceptible to becoming workaholics. In addition, people who exhibit compulsive behaviours are also at higher risk of workaholism.

Additional risk factors

Various other risk factors may put you at risk of work addiction, including the following:

  • You suffer from other addictions. Those with a history of addiction are more likely to develop work addiction. For example, you may already struggle with drug or alcohol abuse or other addictions such as gambling or sex addiction.
  • You enjoy being a workaholic. Individuals with work addiction want to be recognised as hardworking; they tend to wear this badge proudly and may even believe this sets them apart from others.
  • You cannot switch off from work. Many people with work addiction cannot stop thinking about work even after they have left the office. They may obsess over minor details and lie awake at night thinking about everything they must do the next day.

What are the symptoms of a work addiction?

If you are worried that you or a loved one may have a work addiction, you must speak to an experienced professional who can help.

Various treatment options are available to help you overcome work addiction. In addition, treatment may help you to understand your condition better, allowing you to restore a sense of balance in your life.

Below are some of the common symptoms of work addiction:

  • You have a constant compulsion to work or perform work-related duties.
  • You may be obsessed with work to the extent that it impacts other aspects of your life, including your relationships and physical and mental health.
  • You have trouble controlling how much time you spend on work-related activities.
  • You have difficulty controlling the number of work-related tasks you carry out.
  • You experience anxiety or agitation when attempting to stop or limit work.
  • You work to reduce guilt, anxiety, depression and/or helplessness.
  • You become agitated and stressed when you are unable to work.
  • You no longer want to engage in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed and exchange these activities for putting in more hours at work.
  • You spend so much time working that your physical and mental health is negatively impacted.

The above symptoms may result in a vicious cycle where you spend more time at work to reduce unpleasant feelings and emotions such as uneasiness, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

What are the dangers of workaholism?

While workaholics may experience success in their professional lives, there are various consequences associated with work addiction; these include:

Burnout

Burnout is a severe mental health condition resulting from chronic workplace stress.

Those experiencing burnout may often feel physically, mentally and emotionally drained due to prolonged workplace pressure.

Work addicts are driven to excel and over-perform in their careers. However, in the long run, the desire to overachieve can turn to cynicism, where many end up feeling resentful and even hating their job.

To cope with the constant dissatisfaction, many workaholics turn to substances such as drugs or alcohol, leading to other mental health complications such as substance addiction.

Sleep deprivation

Those with work addiction tend to have increased levels of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in their bodies. This may cause sleep disturbances where the person suffers bouts of insomnia.

Prolonged sleep deprivation can cause biochemical imbalances in the brain that may trigger various other issues, such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Problems with concentration and memory
  • Interpersonal relationship issues

Work addicts tend to neglect their relationships, interests and hobbies to spend more time working; this can harm their health, sense of self and family life.

Physical health problems

Those with work addiction will likely experience more physical health problems due to the constant stress and pressure they put on themselves to do well. 

Studies show those who work more than eleven hours a day are up to sixty-seven per cent more likely to experience cardiovascular problems, including:

  • Heart attacks
  • Arterial hypertension
  • Cerebral haemorrhage
  • Cardiac failure
  • Arteriosclerosis

How mental health professionals diagnose work addiction

Work addiction is diagnosed using the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. 

This scale measures several factors, including how often specific criteria apply to your life.

You may be asked to rate specific statements that apply to you, which may look like this:

  • Never (1)
  • Rarely (2)
  • Occasionally (3)
  • Most of the time (4)
  • Always (5)

The work addiction scale may include the following statements:

  • You work to alleviate negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and helplessness.
  • You become agitated when unable to work.
  • The amount of time you spend at work impacts your health.
  • You have been advised to spend less time working but have continued to work long hours.
  • You would rather work than spend time with family and friends.

How can you treat work addiction?

If you or someone you know is struggling with work addiction, you must seek professional help as soon as possible.

Like most addictions, cognitive therapy, biomolecular restoration, transcranial magnetic stimulation and family therapy are some treatments that can help change unhelpful thought and behavioural patterns that lead to addiction.

Various holistic treatments can also be effective for treating work addiction, alongside more traditional therapy methods. These include:

Treating work addiction at Centres for Health and Healing

Centres for Health and Healing offers individualised treatment and advanced therapy programs tailored for individuals seeking recovery from work addiction.

We adopt a trauma-informed approach to addiction and mental health, treating the ‘whole’ person, not just their addictive symptoms.

Our individualised treatment program includes a combination of the following therapies:

All our programs are delivered in first-class, luxurious facilities, allowing you to restore balance in your life and fully recover.

Our aftercare and support programs help you stay on track with your recovery once you complete an addiction program at our treatment centre. These supportive measures help reinforce the principles learned during treatment, allowing you to practise healthy coping skills and prevent relapse.

Work-related stress doesn’t have to be a way of life – help and support are always available for those with work addiction and other mental health issues.

Don’t hesitate to contact one of our specialists today to learn how we can help you.

Now is the time to get help and support for work addiction. Our team is here to guide you every step of the way.

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