Being addicted to work is something often missed in our community as a problematic behaviour. Like any other addiction, whether it’s process or substance, work addiction is the inability to stop the behaviour despite knowledge of the negative consequences. Quite often, it derives from an uncontrollable need to achieve status and success and, in addition, to escape the emotional triggers being experienced outside of the work environment. People addicted to work are regularly described as perfectionists in the workplace, and show little empathy for those that don’t practice to the same “high standards”.
As it is with people addicted to substances, individuals living with a work addiction report experiencing a “high” from working, which leads them to keep repeating the behaviour in order to repeat the experience. People with a work addiction are unable to stop the behaviour on their own, despite an awareness of the negative ways in which it may impact their personal life, physical health, or emotional and mental wellbeing.
In multiple cultures around the world, hard work is praised and recognized as a good practice, putting in overtime is often expected in some places, and it this creates a barrier to recognizing an active work addiction. People experiencing a work addiction will regularly have reasons to justify their behaviour, and will always have a host of examples why working so much good thing for them, in particular as a way to achieve "success". In some cases, others may view them as passionate and extremely committed to their job and the success of the organization they work for. However, being an ambitious employee and a "workaholic" are very different things.
A person experiencing an addiction to work may exhibit obsessive and compulsive work behaviours in order to avoid other areas of their life. They may be experiencing troubling emotional issues or personal crises at home, and staying at work is an excellent escape. Similarly to other process and substance addictions, the individual may be completely unaware of the behaviour and the impact on their environment.
The symptoms of a work addiction include putting in long hours at the office, even when not needed, losing sleep to engage in work projects or finish tasks to the point of being obsessed with work-related success. Individuals experiencing the symptoms of a work addiction can find themselves feeling an intense fear of failure at work, and being paranoid about work-related performance.
It is not uncommon for "workaholics" to find that their personal relationships begin to fall apart, partly due to having a defensive attitude toward others about their behaviours related to work and regularly using work as a way to avoid these relationships becomes common practice. Many people use work as a primary coping mechanism for feelings of guilt or depression or find themselves working to avoid dealing with life crises like the death of a loved one, a divorce, or financial trouble in the home.
If this sounds familiar to you and your behaviours, or those of a loved one you are concerned about, and you would like to make some changes in your work-related behaviours, take a look at the information contained in our website and the external resources for work addiction that we offer here The Liberation Place. If it's time to make a change and reach out for the support, recovery is a journey that starts with just one step, and only you alone can choose to take that step, but remember you are not destined to be alone when you choose to take that step with The Liberation Place!