- Work addiction is real – here’s how to kick the habit
- Is it possible to be addicted to work?
- What causes workaholism?
- What are the symptoms of a workaholic?
- How do I break my work addiction?
- How team leads can help prevent work addiction
- Take some time off, really
- Do I Have A Work Addiction? | Signs & Symptoms Workaholics Exhibit
- Why Work Addiction Can Be Tough to Spot
- What Are the Signs of Work Addiction?
- Taking the First Steps Towards Work Addiction Recovery
Work addiction is real – here’s how to kick the habit
I’m not sure exactly how high my fever is but it has definitely hit the delirious cold-sweat range.
It’s just a b flu. It will pass. But in the moment, it feels debilitating. My most pressing concern is my phone and the fact that it’s reach. It is not, however, because I want to text my partner for ibuprofen, soup, or another blanket (all of which I do very much want).
No. I have Slack on my phone. I can check in with the rest of my team. I have things to do. I have emails to answer, notifications to respond to, checklists to finish. I have to work.
Sure, I gave my editor the heads up I wouldn’t be in. Sure, he’d told me in no uncertain terms that I was to rest up and not worry; everything would be handled.
But what if…?
This wasn’t the first time I’d tortured myself for not being at work. I’d had a crisis of conscience for taking two days off at Thanksgiving. Over winter break, I’d completed work tasks in secret because I knew my editor would tell me – as he’d already told others – to stop. He’d make me go bond with my family, or gorge myself on pastries, or do literally anything but work.
So why can’t I disconnect, even when I have a good reason?
It’s not, as it turns out, due to a hyper-refined work ethic. Rather, I’m an addict, and my job is my drug of choice.
Is it possible to be addicted to work?
Yes, work addiction is a real condition. Psychologist Wayne E. Oates coined the term “workaholic” in his 1971 book, Confessions Of A Workaholic: The Facts About Work Addiction.
According to Oates, workaholics felt the “compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.
” And, much alcoholism (and other addictions), work addiction has been known to damage an individual’s health, happiness, interpersonal relationships, and ability to function socially.
Despite that, 48% of Americans self-identify as workaholics – and for many, this a proud identification. Being a “workaholic” is often synonymous with dedication, ambition, and initiative.
Employees are exhorted by managers to consistently go “above and beyond.” Raises, promotions, and other perks are handed out to those who take on “extra responsibilities.
” If an employee refuses a task because it’s not part of their job, they’re at risk of being viewed as difficult and “not a team player.”
Contemporary researchers, however, such as Malissa A. Clark, Ph.D., make an important distinction between “work addiction” and “work engagement.” According to Clark, the difference comes down to motivation.
“Engaged workers are driven to work because they find it intrinsically pleasurable – they truly enjoy it – while workaholics are driven to work because they feel an inner compulsion to do so,” she wrote in an article for FastCompany.
So how do you tell the difference between a compulsive employee and an enthusiastic one? The key is to determine what’s driving their behavior.
What causes workaholism?
Much substance addiction, there are myriad reasons why someone becomes addicted to work.
The first and most basic is that work addiction fulfills an underlying psychological need. Similar to alcohol or other substances, work can become an escape.
Rather than facing and dealing with uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings and situations, the individual immerses themselves in work tasks.
The worker may literally escape a situation by going to work outside regular hours, or this escape can be more figurative – perhaps instead of paying attention to family or personal dynamics, they think about work-related topics.
Work addiction may also stem from overcompensation. If someone feels less competent in another area of their life – family, social life, hobbies, etc. – they may devote excessive time and energy to work-related tasks in order to achieve that feeling of competency and validation.
The worker may also be reliving old patterns. It could be related to an inability to establish boundaries, attempts to gain approval, or a trauma-related coping mechanism.
That said, work addiction may also be the result of underlying or coexisting mental health conditions, particularly ones such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder. In addition, work addiction can also cause conditions depression if not treated.
What are the symptoms of a workaholic?
Someone with a work addiction may show classic signs working long hours, prioritizing work over other responsibilities and obligations, or being obsessed with work-related success. However, these symptoms may manifest differently in different people.
Psychotherapist Bryan Robinson identified four types of workaholics:
- Procrastinating workaholics, who put off work until the last minute and then rush to finish.
- Bulimic workaholics, who either perform perfectly or not at all.
- Attention-deficit workaholics, who begin multiple projects, but get bored and move on to other challenges.
- Bureaupathic workaholics, who prolong tasks and create additional work.
It’s important to keep in mind that there are no clear-cut parameters when it comes to identifying work addiction. It’s natural to want a list of boxes to check off that will provide a definite yes or no answer, because conditions addiction are rarely ever so simple. With that in mind, there are a few things you can look out for as potential indicators of work addiction:
- Working long hours when not necessary
- Losing sleep in order to work
- Work-related obsessions
- Paranoia and intense fear over work performance
- Deteriorating relationships with others as a result of work
- Neglecting personal health and well-being due to work
- Missing significant events or milestones due to work
Any of these traits on their own, or that occur infrequently, are not necessarily definitive proof someone is addicted to their work. But multiple statements that apply to someone over a period of time may indicate a more serious problem.
How do I break my work addiction?
I’ll be honest with you: There is no simple fix for work addiction. I know that’s not the cheeriest conclusion to come to, but it’s best to rip the Band-Aid off fast.
The fact is, work addiction is an addiction. That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless; it’s just important to be realistic. The first step – as cliché as it sounds – is to recognize that there is a problem.
If you’re unable to break your addiction on your own, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor about the best way to move forward.
There are both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs that can help manage your compulsive behaviors, though not everyone will need to go that route.
That said, a mental health assessment can be beneficial, especially if you haven’t checked up on your mental health in a while. As I said earlier, some mental health conditions can cause or exacerbate work addiction, and vice versa.
An alternative to formal, one-on-one therapy is attending group therapy, such as a 12-step group Workaholics Anonymous, which has a self-assessment questionnaire on their site, as well as an assortment of resources.
If you have a good relationship with your manager or a member of human resources, they may be able to help you access resources or assist in other ways.
In addition to therapy, lifestyle changes can also improve your ability to handle your work addiction. These can be very simple changes, taking up a new hobby, or as substantial as changing career.
And while a listicle won’t cure a work addiction, there are some very quick, simple things you can try, including:
- A digital detox. Section out time in your day to be device-free. Read a book, go for a walk, listen to a (not work-related) podcast, bake cookies – whatever works for you. Grab some time and switch everything off.
- Mindfulness. It’s not for everyone, but it can be helpful. Meditation or mindfulness can provide emotional insight, improve concentration, and enhances awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and body.
- Sleep properly. Stress is exhausting, and if you have a work addiction, you are definitely stressed. More to the point, everyone needs a good night’s sleep, and very few of us actually get enough healthy rest. If you’re lying awake thinking work thoughts, get up and do something. Change the channel your brain is on. Distract yourself, in other words. I audio books (actor Adjoa Andoh‘s voice is so soothing), or a podcast Lore by Aaron Mahnke. (I’m a nerd, okay?) also has loads of “sleep music” playlists which will do in a pinch.
- Don’t say “yes.” I’m a “yes” person. You ask for something? OK, I’ll do it. I may be stretched way beyond capacity, but I’ll take on one more thing anyway. Don’t do that. You don’t have to say no; just say, “Let me get back to you.” Take some time to evaluate your resources. This goes for volunteering, too. Ask yourself: Do you have time for the task? Do you have the mental and physical space to take it on? Are you already over-extended? What happens if you decline? (It’s shocking how often the answer to that is the thing gets done anyway.)
- Simplify. Choose one priority task per day. One. Focusing on just the one task in front of you means that you’re less ly to get distracted or overwhelmed by an endless list of things to do. One of the key things to remember is: work smarter, not harder.
- Nominate a buddy. Whether it’s a colleague, friend, or family member, find someone who will hold you accountable and clue them in. Make sure it’s someone who will be supportive and able to call you out when necessary. It’s hard to break a habit if you don’t realize you’re doing it, and those around us are often more aware of our behaviors than we are.
- Find your work/life balance. I know it sounds generic. I know it’s not simple. But work/life balance is important, and attainable. When I was working on my thesis, my coach made me schedule a day off every week. There were two rules: I had to take it no matter what and I couldn’t do anything related to my thesis. The first month or so was difficult. I felt guilty, lazy, and I wasn’t trying hard enough. Eventually, though, I began to relax into it. Taking a day off actually made the rest of the week feel less stressful.
- Track your hours. I use Hubstaff, but anything will do. Not only do I track how many hours I work a day, I also track how much time I spend doing individual tasks. At the end of the week, I can see how much time I’ve spent writing blog posts, editing for my colleagues, or even attending meetings. Then hold yourself accountable. If you spent longer on a task than it should’ve taken, ask yourself why. How often are you working long hours? Is there a way you can arrange your tasks and responsibilities to change that?
How team leads can help prevent work addiction
If you’re a supervisor, you can play a key role in helping your team avoid work addiction. Here’s how:
- Encourage people to take some time off. Assure them ( my supervisor did), that they can truly unplug from work while they’re away. If you sense that a team member has anxiety about this, talk to them about their particular concerns and help them identify where and how their work can be routed during their absence.
- Create a culture that respects people’s work-life balance. Avoid sending emails or messages late at night or on the weekends so people don’t feel that they have to respond. If you’re generally a night owl or early bird, be sure that everyone knows you don’t expect responses when they’re offline. (And be really sure. Remind people often. Saying it once might not be enough.)
- Lead by example. Take time off yourself. Let your staff know that you won’t be checking email, Slack, or other messages during that time. Make sure people have your cell number in case of emergency, but be sure to define “emergency” as a truly catastrophic event.
- Empower people to say “no.” Give team members a framework for learning how to field requests that might interfere with their other work.
- Protect your team members’ time and focus. When other teams request resources from your people, make sure your folks truly have the time and bandwidth to assist. If they don’t, take it upon yourself to shift their assignments or find a way to divert the request elsewhere.
Take some time off, really
Fortunately, when I had my overworking epiphany, I was in a position where I could take time off. As soon as I was able to crawl out from under the duvet, I marked out a vacation the earliest possible. I’m not going anywhere; I’m just… not working.
Taking time away will give you an opportunity to gain some perspective and decide what you want – both personally and professionally. How do you feel about your work? What are the fears and anxieties you have when you’re not working, and where do they come from?
These can be big questions with complex answers, but it is important to understand why you overwork. Once you understand the causes, you can develop a way forward. Create new habits and routines, identify the stressors that trigger your compulsions, and re-evaluate your expectations of success.
Leks Drakos is a rogue academic specializing in monstrosity, post-apocalyptic narratives, and the contemporary novel. He’s also a content writer for Process Street. Follow him on .
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Do I Have A Work Addiction? | Signs & Symptoms Workaholics Exhibit
Have you ever been told you work too hard? For people with demanding jobs, this might seem a shocking statement. After all, certain career paths necessitate working long hours.
Certainly, it’s possible for you to be someone who enjoys working more than the average 40-45 hours per week.
However, there is a huge difference between a workaholic and someone who is just in a fast-paced profession.
The key to understanding if you have the symptoms of being a workaholic is to understand the warning signs and how they affect both you and those in your life. Workaholics aren’t just driven to work and work.
Rather, they are driven to work to the exception of anything else. This means work is the center of their lives instead of only being a contributing part, and therein lies the core of the work addiction.
So how do you know if you have a work addiction?
Why Work Addiction Can Be Tough to Spot
Ironically, work addiction can be very challenging to identify. After all, our society suggests working as much as you can is a sign of someone who is dedicated to their job. Many supervisors are happy to have a workaholic on the team. They know the work addict can be counted on to pick up the pieces and get tasks done.
When the workaholic is in the position of manager or leader, they may simply do all the work rather than delegating to subordinates. If the subordinates are fine with this arrangement, upper management and executive leadership personnel may never know what’s occurring.
This could be why work addiction signs and symptoms are ignored in the employment sector. Who wants to get rid of the employee who’s willing to work well into the night, as well as come into the office every weekend without any extra pay?
Eventually, though, a work addict’s ability to keep up this furious pace will backfire, leaving their employer in a bad position. Knowing this, it’s critical human resources personnel encourage employees who are showing symptoms of work addiction to get assistance and treatment.
What Are the Signs of Work Addiction?
The symptoms of a work addiction run the gamut from subtle to obvious. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Do I have a work addiction?” the following symptoms of being a workaholic may be able to help you determine the answer:
- You believe you have to be smarter than everyone else. Your confidence is wrapped up in your being at the top of the charts in every way. In school, if you got anything less than a perfect grade, you felt dumb and incompetent. You may even have been embarrassed and tried to hide your grades from family members.
- You feel you are defined by the work you do. Thus, you have to keep doing more work to have any kind of worth. Growing up, this might have been instilled in you by parents or guardians who told you (or showed you by their own workaholic actions) that without work, you were nothing important.
- You are someone who needs attention all the time. You being recognized for what you do at work, and you seek out kudos from your supervisors and colleagues. Each time you get a “nice job,” you feel a sort of high. Unfortunately, it only lasts a short period of time before you’re driven to get more accolades. There’s really never enough for you.
- You are terrified of going bankrupt or into debt. As a result, you drive yourself to work nonstop. You may have come from a family where money was always tight or nonexistent. This has led you to have a poor relationship with finances. Your spouse complains you won’t spend any money, even though you have enough.
- You are afraid of losing your job. Perhaps you saw a parent constantly losing jobs, and you vowed at a young age this wouldn’t happen to you, too. You feel without a job, your life wouldn’t be worth living. The only way you know how to hold onto jobs is to work yourself harder than anyone else.
- You worry you’ll become a source of embarrassment to yourself or your family members because of perceived laziness. You never want to be known as the person who didn’t do enough, so you always go overboard. Even if you risk everything, you believe it’s worth the choice.
- You never say no to a work assignment, even if it comes at a hefty price, such as missing your kids’ games or forgoing dinner out with your partner. You feel if you tell your boss “no,” you’ll immediately be seen as insubordinate, and you could risk losing your job or being written up.
- You hate to deal with what’s happening on the home front. Therefore, you avoid poor communication with your family members by spending excessive amounts of time at work. Even if your spouse threatens divorce, you would rather remain a workaholic than have to go through therapy with them.
- Even though you know a lot about your work, you know very little about other subjects. You have focused so intently on your niche you’ve excluded other interests. What used to interest you no longer grabs your attention.
- You fear being alone, so you work to fill the void. Work becomes a sort of relationship for you, and you feel your work is your companion in life. It’s always there for you, and it never argues. It’s your “true love” in many ways.
- You have been identified as someone who has an addictive personality. Many work addicts have been addicted to other substances, such as smoking or the Internet.
- You have been identified as someone who is suffering from depression. This is considered a dual-diagnosis. Essentially, you are addicted to work, but the underlying factors of your addiction are combined with your clinical depression.
- You cannot ever relax — work is always “in your head.” Not only do you think about work all the time, you may even have dreams (and nightmares) about it. Work is honestly your life.
- You enjoy having the reputation of being a workaholic. When you tell people how many hours a week you work, you feel a sense of pride you don’t get from any other accomplishment. Even when someone accuses you of being addicted to work, you simply smile because you feel self-satisfaction from their accusation.
- You believe everything should be done to excess. For instance, if you diet, you diet extremely and eliminate whole food groups. Similarly, if you exercise, you exercise until you are completely fatigued. There is no middle ground with you — it’s only all or nothing.
- You can only talk about work. Whenever the conversation swings to something else, you bring it back to work. You to boast about the work you’ve done, what you’re currently working on and what you plan to do. People have told you you’re a bore because of your lack of varied conversation topics.
- You grew up admiring workaholics. These could have been family members, or they might have been teachers, coaches, religious figures or neighbors. You told yourself if you could be those workaholics, your life would be better.
- You enjoy challenges, especially ones that involve self-deprivation. This is why you’re willing to go without sleep in order to finish a work assignment well in advance of deadlines. You feel this is a sign of being a strong person.
- You have no home life. There is only your work life, and this work life is more important to you than any home life could ever be. If you’re single, your home may be sparsely decorated. It also may look it’s hardly lived-in because you are never home to do such things as watch TV, have friends over or read a book for fun.
- You feel anyone who doesn’t work as much as you do isn’t worth his or her paycheck. You look down on other people who work normal hours, and you are disgusted by the thought they can live they do.
- You hate to take vacations. When you’re actually on a trip, all you can think about is plugging into your work. This not only discourages your vacation-mates, it has earned you the reputation of being a “wet blanket.” You will never take a vacation where you cannot have access to work.
- You being the first into the office in the morning and the last to leave, whether or not you are the boss. This gives you a sensation of extreme power. You may even go back to the office late at night or send out late-night emails to colleagues and clients. This way, you can illustrate you work all the time.
- You are willing to go into the office in the middle of the night, even if the office isn’t in the best part of town. You’d rather risk your life than not be at work.
- You have sacrificed a healthy relationship with your children. When you see them not doing homework or engaging in fun activities, you tell them they are lazy. You are disgusted by what you see as a lack of work ethic.
- You have already lost relationships because of your workaholism. Although you didn’t enjoy losing people, you felt helpless because you were unable to stop working. You couldn’t understand why your working hard would make them feel unhappy.
- You have considered getting another job because your current job isn’t giving you enough hours. This isn’t for financial reasons, though. You have enough money. You simply don’t feel you’re working as much as you could or should be.
- You have lost jobs because you worked too much and your supervisors felt you were too obsessed with your job. You may also not have followed the chain of command. Rather than delegating work, you chose to do it yourself, even when your employer insisted you do otherwise.
- You never take any kind of breaks during work, including lunch or snack breaks. You even limit the time you use the bathroom so you can stay on a project as long as possible. People have stopped asking if you want to chat. They know you’ll never engage in any “water cooler” discussions.
- You have been told you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD). These conditions can go hand-in-hand with workaholism. They make you feel as if your mind is constantly going 100 miles per hour.
- You have gotten to the point where you don’t even feel guilty about missing important milestones in others’ lives, such as those related to your spouse or children.
- You refuse to go to medical appointments, and you may be struggling with health issues. However, you believe your health isn’t more important than your job.
- You do not take care of your personal appearance. You may be too thin or too heavy, or you may suffer from hypertension or other physical ailments. The only thing that matters to you is work.
- You have insomnia and cannot seem to get a good night’s sleep. Therefore, you sometimes forgo sleep altogether to work instead.
- You don’t have any kind of support in your life. You’ve pushed everyone away with your work addiction. This could have been from circumstances or from a deliberate attempt to clear the way for you to work all the time. In fact, you wouldn’t know what to do if you had friends to turn to.
- You suffer from anxiety attacks. These can be related to working, or they can come at any time. The only way you can deal with your anxiousness is to keep on working.
These are all common workaholism signs and symptoms, and if you see yourself in them, it’s time to get treatment for your work addiction.
Taking the First Steps Towards Work Addiction Recovery
Recovering from work addiction takes time, as well as the help of people who understand what you’re experiencing. Because you probably can’t simply stop working, you’ll have to learn better ways to manage your work schedule and incorporate a home-life routine.
Many workaholics find it can be helpful to begin planning each day from beginning to end before going to bed. This allows them to have a clear picture of how they will go through the next 24 hours. Because work addicts are ly to be methodical by nature, an outlined calendar can be a huge asset. Not only is it a guide to follow, it gives them a sense of being in charge of their lives.
Though it’s possible to do a lot yourself in terms of treatment, it’s important you don’t try to overcome your work addiction on your own. Even if you want to change, it can still be an enormous challenge to change without help.
There are inpatient and outpatient centers available throughout the nation, as well as psychologists, counselors and psychiatrists who are accepting new work addict clients. Find one you feel a connection with and a facility that has a track record of treating work addicts.