Work Addiction

Work addiction

In a work climate where it is encouraged that you work harder, faster and for longer, the work addict can be seen as just being committed or ambitious. As new technology can blur the boundary between work and home life this can also be a hiding place for the work addict.  Like other addictions this compulsive behaviour is an inability to stop working despite negative consequences.Like other addictions, the compulsive need to work is a way to avoid inadequacy and to escape the stressors he/she is unable to cope with. The work addict achieves a temporary high through work but in the background there are guilty feelings that they aren’t doing or achieving enough. Their expectations about what they should achieve can be limitless and thus sets of a self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘I am a failure’. This could lead to irrational behaviours and frustration, which in itself reinforces their negative belief.

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The cause of work addiction often stems back to childhood and is usually linked to low self-esteem.  There may have been a constant need to prove oneself in order to get attention or high-achieving behaviours became a way of feeling better. Childhood trauma and prolonged stress can also be a common feature. This means that when seeking treatment it is not just about working with the addiction but also about addressing what is causing it and finding alternative ways of coping and managing.

Researchers have identified three specific stages to work addiction:

Early Stage: This stage is where the individual starts to work longer hours and take on extra jobs and responsibilities even if this means no extra pay.  They will always be too busy to take time off from work.

Middle Stage: This stage is where the individual is becoming work dependent.  He/she may have difficulty switching off from work so they remain emotionally attached.  Personal relationships may become more strained or distant.  Physical health can begin to suffer due to poor sleep or due to weight gain or loss.

Late Stage: This stage is where the work addict will experience more serious physical and mental health side effects.  The good news is that with professional support the work addict can find alternative ways of coping and managing that are less detrimental to their mental and physical wellbeing.


work addiction

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