Many behaviors can become habitualized or addictive. While drug and alcohol addiction involves both physical and psychological dependence, behavioral addictions are purely psychological. These disorders can be very serious, as it is difficult to maintain a normal lifestyle, healthy relationships, steady employment, and important hobbies or passions when a particular behavior becomes compulsive. This can lead to anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
What Is a Behavioral Addiction, and How Does Work Become Addictive?
Some behaviors that may become compulsive include the following:
- Having sex
- Viewing pornography
- Using the Internet
Though maintaining steady employment is crucial for most people, when work becomes something that completely dominates a person’s attention, time, and emotions, it is a problem. Some signs of compulsive working include the following:
- Excessive hours spent working
- Choosing to work extra hours even when not expected to by the employer
- Inability to engage in other activities without staying in touch with the office
- Defensiveness when confronted with concerns about working
- Choosing to work instead of engaging in activities once enjoyed
- Loss of sleep due to working or obsessing over work issues
- Irritability related to work issues
- Use of substances such as caffeine, alcohol, or amphetamines to keep working
- Refusal to take time off from work including vacation time that has been earned
There is a difference between someone who works hard or works long hours and someone who is psychologically addicted to working. Work addiction is often a progressive disease and may lead to other compulsive behaviors.
How to Help a Workaholic
The emotional aspects of behavioral addiction often cause an addict to be unable to admit that he or she has a problem. Defensiveness and denial are powerful, and it is important for the affected loved ones to be direct and compassionate when confronting a workaholic. Advance preparation may include the following:
- Seek the advice of a process addiction expert
- Prepare talking points for the confrontational conversation
- Explore treatment options in advance
- Assuring the workaholic that you are in their corner and will be with them through treatment
- Develop clear and reasonable goals for treatment outcomes
Find Support for Workaholic Treatment
If left untreated compulsive working can destroy relationships, personal health and even the career that the workaholic is obsessed with. Stress can create serious physical side effects including the following:
- Raised blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- Ulcers and other gastrointestinal distress
Treatment is mostly based on counseling, but depending on the severity of the disorder medication may be used as well. Lasting recovery often requires professional treatment over an extended period of time.