Work addiction is a process addiction. A process addiction is an addiction to certain behaviors or processes that alter mood and brain chemistry. The term addiction encompasses any recurring compulsion or obsession by an individual despite negative consequences in their life and an inability to cease the activity and end it permanently. It becomes a problem when there is no balance and boundaries are weak. As with drug and alcohol addiction, usually, a bottom has to be reached before the individual will realize there is a problem especially when someone who overworks is much more rewarded by society than a heroin addict. A work addiction type is actually a manifestation of any number of underlying emotional and psychological issues.
Symptoms of Work Addiction
Here are eight symptoms indicating a work addiction:
- Approval-seeking—The workaholic’s identity is in their work; it justifies their existence and is a means of gaining approval from others.
- Low self-esteem—Overly concerned with image, workaholics believe that overworking earns them admiration.
- Control issues—They work to cope with life’s uncertainties and try to gain a measure of control over the otherwise uncontrollable.
- Authority issues—They are prone to succumbing to figures of authority in a search for approval, even if it means surrendering or lowering themselves.
- Perfectionism—They tend to make unreasonable demands upon themselves. They may or may not extend this expectation to those around them, both at work and in their personal relationships.
- Escapism—They also use work as a means of escaping having to deal with real-world emotions and feelings.
- Preoccupation with work—Like clinical addicts, workaholics overwork and, when not at work, obsess about it to the point that their lives become out of balance which negatively affects their own health as well as their relationships.
- Lying—They may begin to lie, to themselves and others, about their work habits. They also may lie about past successes and failures, exaggerating the former and minimizing or falsifying the latter.
The Work Addiction Syndrome Checklist
These are some questions that potential work addicts can ask themselves to identify if they have a problem that needs to be addressed.
- How much time do you spend working, and how much time do you spend with family, friends, etc.? Is your work schedule causing problems in your family or social life?
- Do you feel out of control or powerless at times when it comes to setting limits, going home, or quitting work for the day?
- Are you having a difficult time enjoying the “fruits” of your labors in spite of the financial success or being respected and admired in your company or industry?
- Do you break promises to yourself, family, or friends regarding work time, travel schedules, and other related employment activities?
- Do you have difficulty “letting go” and delegating work?
- Have your work patterns affected intimate friendships, and/or important social activities you once enjoyed such as vacations, fishing, sports, museums, or reading?
- When on vacation, is it difficult to relax and disengage from work, therefore interrupting or contaminating your vacation time with family or friends? (Phone calls, laptop, pagers)
- Has your physical health deteriorated due to an excessive work schedule? Have you continued to “push the needle into the red” in spite of warnings from your doctor, psychologist, colleague, or boss?
- Have you surprised yourself at how easy you “fly off the handle” or “lose it” these days? Are people in your life having to “tiptoe” around you due to this volatility? Is this different than you use to be?
- Have you unsuccessfully attempted to cut down or stop overworking, overcommitting, staying at the office, etc? Do you promise to spend more time at home, going to the gym or golf course, and not following through?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may be suffering from work addiction syndrome.
Levels of Work Addiction
There are levels at which these work addict symptoms tend to manifest themselves more evidently. Like with any addiction, catching it in its earlier stages proves to be more successful in dealing with withdrawal effects.
- Early Stage. In this stage of work addiction, the worker tends to be constantly busy and tends to take on more than can realistically be done. He or she will put in lots of extra hours (even if not paid for the overtime) and cannot seem to find time to take days off.
- Middle Stage. At this level of workaholism, our addict begins to distance themselves from personal relationships. When at home, the workaholic is distracted and emotionally stays at work. At this stage, the physical tolls often begin to manifest themselves. They may have trouble unwinding enough to get to sleep. They may feel tired all the time. They may tend to see a change in weight (gain or loss).
- Late Stage. Those who are in the late stage of work addiction now tend to find more serious physical and emotional symptoms like chronic headaches, elevated blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and increased risk of stroke. (It can be as physically harmful as other addictions).