This page was reviewed by Sam Hickey in July 2021.
While many people strive for success, fulfilment and career progression in their respective industries, work addiction, or ‘workaholism’, is a behavioural addiction, causing a compulsive need to work, that can adversely affect other aspects of your life.
You may have been described as a ‘workaholic’ or a ‘perfectionist’ by colleagues at work, although 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. Your mental health can be affected by work, as well as your physical health too. Most of your time is consumed by working and there's really not much time for anything else.
When you receive treatment for work addiction at Priory, you will embark upon a tailored addiction treatment plan delivered by our specialist psychiatrists and therapists.
What is Work Addiction?
Maintaining a job and progressing in your chosen career is often necessary in order to be able to pay your bills, rent or mortgage, buy food, and support any dependent children. The necessity for many people to go to work in order to live comfortably means that in order to diagnose work addiction, any preoccupation with work must be having an adverse effect on other aspects of your life.
This behavioural disorder is characterised by an inability to control a desire to work beyond your contracted hours to an extent that your relationships and spare time are often compromised, and you may be described by family members or colleagues as a ‘perfectionist’ or ‘workaholic’. Research has estimated that around 10% of modern workforces such as those found in the USA and the UK may meet the criteria for work addiction diagnosis.
Signs of Work Addiction
Work addiction can develop if you or someone that you know has a strong desire for perfection or an extremely driven personality. While these are commonly seen as positive traits, in the context of a working environment, they can cause a cycle of compulsive working in order to meet the high expectations of yourself and senior colleagues at work.
Observing the difference between someone that is simply hard working and a person with a work addiction that is damaging social and emotional aspects of their lives can be difficult, although the below signs of addiction may indicate that you have an unhealthy relationship with work that goes beyond simply meeting the demands of a job role:
- Regularly thinking of ways to create more time to work, even on days off
- You find yourself working late at night or doing overtime in the office, beyond what you initially intended
- Believing that work helps to reduce symptoms of emotional stress, anxiety, helplessness or depression
- Ignoring requests from loved ones or work colleagues to reduce the amount of work that you take on
- Experiencing symptoms of stress or becoming irritable if you are not able to work for an extended period of time
- Hobbies such as exercise or leisure activities with family and friends become less important than completing work tasks
- Working excessively has negatively influenced your overall health and wellbeing
If you are worried that a loved one is overworking and may be showing signs of a work addiction, sometimes it can be easier to spot the consequences of work addiction on their mental and physical health.
If you spot one or more of these signs and believe that it is linked to a compulsion to work, then you should advise the person to seek professional help and support as soon as possible:
- Symptoms of depression
- Increased anxiety
- Involved in conflict with family and friends more easily
- Increased substance use
- Heightened stress levels
What Causes Work Addiction?
As with many forms of addiction, there isn’t considered to be a specific cause of work addiction, although it is believed to be linked to a combination of factors, which can include:
Genetics - research into many forms of addiction has indicated that inherited personality traits may be involved in the likelihood of you becoming addicted to work. Your genetics and brain chemistry are believed to play a role in how likely you are to develop an addiction of any kind, which combines with environmental and social influences to determine how likely it is that a compulsion to work begins to impact on your life.
Environment and family upbringing - while a good work ethic is always a valuable attribute to have, your family upbringing and their attitude to work in general can have an impact on whether you are likely to overwork later in life. For example, if your parents placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of work and success, or often worked long hours, then you may learn similar traits and believe that working around the clock is normal and to be expected.
Treatment Options for Work Addiction
If required, residential inpatient treatment for work addiction involves 24-hour care and support at one of our hospitals. This safe and supportive environment is the most effective way to separate your mind and body from your addiction, and involves a comprehensive therapeutic treatment plan involving a multidisciplinary team of, psychiatrists and therapists. Residential treatment for work addiction may also be recommended if you have co-existing mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression that may have been caused or worsened by your compulsion to work excessively.
For the most severe cases of work addiction, we also offer a 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme involving free weekly aftercare support for 12 months after completing the programme, and family support during and after treatment.
Day care and outpatient therapy are the most common treatment options for work addiction. Day care offers a similar treatment environment to residential treatment, and outpatient therapy acts as the ideal step-down from inpatient and day care. Both treatment options will be able to offer a range of therapy types and help you manage day-to-day life.
No matter what treatment option you receive for work addiction at Priory, you will be provided with 12 months of free aftercare, which helps to prevent relapse and allows you to return to your work and personal life with the comfort of knowing that you have a healthcare support system in place should you require it.
Think you're Suffering from Work Addiction?
If you are having problems managing your urge to work and believe that it may be affecting your wellbeing, then you can book a free initial addiction assessment so that you can learn more about your addiction and the variety of treatment options available at Priory to help you recover.
For further details on how Priory can provide you with further assistance regarding work addiction treatment, please call 0800 691 1490. For professionals looking to make a referral, please make an enquiry.
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