How can being addicted to work be a bad thing? Believe it or not, an increasing number of people are starting to think this way.
That’s because modern life dictates that we must all be strivers. If you want to go backpacking across Cambodia, buy the latest tech or dine at the most popular eatery on Instagram, you need plenty of disposable income.
In this day and age, with the economic struggles we’re all facing, the only way to achieve this is by picking up all the extra shifts available to you, fighting to earn a promotion, or working all the hours under the sun to get your annual bonus.
In order to get what we want, we have to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to our work. And in many cultures, this is viewed as quite a noble thing. This is why work addiction is sharply rising.
That said, becoming a ‘workaholic’ most commonly occurs in high-pressure professions, disproportionately affecting SEOs, high-level executives, business owners, entrepreneurs, lawyers, doctors, and surgeons.
Here, the stakes are incredibly high, and taking your eye off the ball, even just for a few hours, can be very costly.
As a result, striking a healthy work-life balance is a pipe dream for many that is simply unachievable.
What are the signs and symptoms of work addiction?
The symptoms of a work addiction are very similar to almost all addictions. A work addiction can often be identified by the following behaviours:
- A constant inner compulsion to work or carry out other work-related tasks
- Difficulty controlling the time spent working
- Difficult controlling the number of work-related activities taken on
- A feeling of anxiety or agitation when trying to stop or cut back on work
- An obsessive focus on work results in family life, as well as physical and mental health, suffering.
Inevitably, these behaviours can create a vicious circle in which the addict spends even more time working to try to counter the symptoms.
What are the long-term dangers of a work addiction?
Most people who are addicted to their work are able to achieve a great deal of professional success. This profile of professional is often most highly valued in the business environment and they tend to accumulate the most wealth too.
However, that doesn’t mean that work addiction is free from consequences or is a ‘harmless’ addiction, as it is often described. In fact, over an extended period of time, a work addiction can be dangerous, producing a number of very serious consequences:
- Development of other addictions. If an individual can no longer derive any satisfaction from their work, they sometimes pursue quick fixes such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.
- Sleep deprivation. Working while under continuous pressure produces an increased level of the “stress hormone” cortisol in the body. High levels result in difficulty sleeping and, after some time, sleep deprivation.
- Biochemical imbalances in the brain. Failing to get quality sleep can cause imbalances in the brain which can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and depression, as well as problems with concentration and memory.
- Relationship problems. As workaholics find it difficult to switch off, they progressively neglect relationships, prioritising their work instead. Previous interests and passions are also neglected.
- Cardiovascular problems. Being under constant stress puts a strain on the heart, creating a higher risk of heart attacks, arterial hypertension, cerebral hemorrhage, cardiac failure, and arteriosclerosis.
That said, the most common consequence of work addiction is burnout.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight; it’s an anxiety disorder that is a result of the body’s response to long-term, unresolved stress. It can affect anyone and, unfortunately, it’s often hard to spot symptoms until the stress becomes intolerable.
The main symptoms are:
- A loss of energy, total exhaustion
- An inability to concentrate and finish tasks
- A marked increase in cynicism and loss of enthusiasm for work-related tasks
- A loss of self-belief and confidence
- Significantly reduced job performance
- Recurring headaches and gastrointestinal problems
Can work addiction be treated?
One of the biggest obstacles for work addicts to get treatment is accepting that they need help in the first place. Even if their health and relationships are suffering, the nature of their addiction means that they are simply unable to stop and prioritise their own well-being.
Another factor could be that they have a professional business profile and image that they have to maintain.
However, breaking that circle is necessary if you are to make lasting changes to your life.
This isn’t easy, that’s why if you or someone you know is experiencing an addiction to work, it’s best to seek professional help.
As with most addictions, there is a range of psychotherapeutic techniques available for work addiction. These include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), biomolecular restoration, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and family therapy. These can all help to disrupt destructive patterns of thinking and their effects.
Other complementary therapies (such as massage, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture) are also useful as they promote new stress relief habits that allow you to create a new and healthy balance between work, relationships, passions, and interests.
Start your recovery at White River Manor now
As you can see, work addiction is far from harmless. In fact, in the long run, it can have terrible consequences. But you don’t have to be trapped in this endless cycle.
At White River Manor, we are specialists in helping those who live with addiction and any other concurrent disorders.
Our personalised residential programmes put you in a safe, luxurious space, surrounded by nature, home comforts, and supportive professionals who will set you on the path to recovery with the right tools in place.
If you would like to find out more about how we treat work addiction, burnout, and other related issues, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.