Work ethic is one of the longest-standing American values – and it is a national value that citizens certainly take to heart. Americans are far more likely to work nights and weekends than workers in other wealthy countries, and are exceedingly more likely to put in longer hours during the week. While studies show that the majority of employees would prefer more time off, longer vacation periods, and nights free from overtime and tireless engagement, a combination of insecurity and new technology tend to keep them constantly plugged in.
Of course, many individuals have found an effective balance between work and their personal lives – they carve out ample time for family, friends, and recreational activities while managing the societally expected 40 hours. For close to a quarter of American citizens, however, attempting to balance work and the rest of life can seem an impossible feat – and can prove to be quite a slippery slope. Yes, it was currently estimated that nearly one-fourth of Americans are workaholics. While this term is used somewhat loosely in this day and age, those who truly do suffer from work-related addictions have adopted a damaging lifestyle that is liable to lead to long-term consequences.
As is the case with most addictive disorders, it is often quite difficult to diagnose yourself. You will likely not want to admit that your work schedule has gotten unmanageable, or that you have become powerless over your drive to continue climbing the executive ladder (or whatever it is your career entails).
5 Warning Signs of Work Addiction
Take a look at the five following warning signs to help you determine whether you struggle with some work addiction-related tendencies.
- You rarely feel physically well.
Workaholics will typically turn to a host of bad habits relating to physical health. Many men and women who suffer from work addiction will consistently skip meals, or grab a ‘quick bite’ late at night – usually something drive-thru accessible. Sleep schedules are thrown out of whack and daily exercise regimes are all but abandoned. Mental health professionals who work one-on-one with work addicts tend to see the same physical symptoms across the board – migraines, insomnia, weight gain or weight loss, gastrointestinal issues, and increased irritability. Many work addicts will also take up heavy drinking as a form of stress relief, often resulting in co-occurring addictive disorders. If you find that your personal well-being is lacking due to a mental obsession with work-related projects, you may want to look into seeking help for a potential work-related addictive disorder.
- You tend to consistently work longer hours than your colleagues.
It is not uncommon for workaholics to be the first to arrive and the last to leave, attempting to cram as many ‘productive’ hours into the workday as humanly possible. However, overtime hours are rarely productive. Numerous studies have shown that ample sleep and adequate self-care result in more productive and efficient employees than late nights and early mornings. If you incessantly attempt to pack as much productivity into one workday as possible, disallowing yourself the opportunity to rest and relax from time to time, you may want to take a closer look at your relationship with work.
You Are the First to Arrive and the Last to Leave
- You can’t easily ‘turn it off’.
True workaholism is not merely defined by working long hours, of course. There are plenty of career-oriented individuals who spend a little too much time at the office, but are able to turn off thoughts of work and be present for other areas of life if need be. Those who truly suffer from work addiction are unable to turn off thoughts of work, no matter where they are physically. They could be attempting to enjoy a Sunday family picnic, but be mentally consumed with thoughts of vocation. If you find that work is almost always on your mind, you may be suffering from work addiction.
- Your interpersonal relationships are suffering.
The loved ones of the workaholic are usually the first to recognize his or her consumption with work, and will likely point out this steadily increasing absence. It is not uncommon for the work addict to begin missing important milestones and engagements because of time spent at the office. Birthdays may be forgotten, anniversaries will be missed, and important sporting events will be forgone for a few more hours of labor. Eventually, marital problems will come into play, and all meaningful interpersonal relationships will be neglected despite the threat of loss. Studies show that marital relationships involving one or more workaholic experience a divorce rate 40 percent higher than that of the average American. If your loved ones are making comments to you about your lack of involvement in their lives, you may want to step back and take an honest look at your priorities.
- Your self-esteem and self-worth are directly tied to your work-related successes.
Workaholics will typically define themselves solely by their work-related successes. If one ties in their personal identity with their achievements in the workplace, then perceived failures (such as a demotion or significant criticism from higher-ups) could be potentially devastating. Many work addicts are also extreme perfectionists, and put an unrealistic amount of weight on their occupational performance. Separating self-worth and work-related triumphs while smashing perfectionistic tendencies is crucial for work addicts, and often cannot be done without intensive professional assistance.
Are You a Workaholic?
Like all addictive disorders, work addiction is often directly related to deeper, underlying issues. Many work addicts experience a deep-seated desire to succeed based on perfectionistic qualities that result from early childhood neglect or abuse, for example. Work addiction is also a highly progressive disorder. What may begin as a drive to succeed monetarily can evolve into a psychological need to fulfill a self-imposed demand. It is normal and healthy to derive a certain amount of self-esteem from doing well occupationally. It feels good to receive a pat on the back from your boss, and to be rewarded with accolades such as the coveted ‘Employee of the Month’. For the work addict, however, self-identity revolves solely around employment. Work takes constant precedence, and all other areas of life suffer as a result.
We Treat Work Addiction
If you work long hours and are extremely dedicated to career, you are not necessarily a work addict. Deriving great pleasure from work-related successes is exceedingly normal, and is not necessarily reason for concern. However, if your career has become an obsession in your life, preventing you from maintaining healthy relationships and engaging in activities outside of the work place, you may want to take a closer look at the possibility of work addiction. Because work addiction so frequently tends to go hand-in-hand with substance dependency and other addictive disorders, dual diagnosis treatment has proven exceptionally effective. We at Next Chapter focus heavily on maintaining a healthy balance in all areas of life, and this includes developing a healthy relationship with work. If you feel guilty or uncomfortable when you are not working, and if you find that you are constantly preoccupied with thoughts relating to your current job, you may be afflicted with work addiction. Fortunately, help is available.
Call us today at 1-561-563-8407.