The modern world offers the perfect conditions to foster workaholism symptoms. Bonuses for extra achievements, overtime payments, and the potential for fast career growth pressure people to spend more time at work. The availability of email and messengers on every device enables people prone to participating in work-related discussions to do so around the clock. In addition, the almost total switch to work-from-home culture easily blurs the line between work and life.
Working under these conditions can be considered the mark of an ambitious person who wants to build a great career. But, when someone with personality traits that predispose them to workaholism finds themselves in an overwork situation, the extreme focus on work can slide into addiction.
While it’s easy to confuse a workaholic with an ambitious worker, there are differences. The workaholic lifestyle is unhealthy, workaholics tend not to find their work satisfying, and workaholism is not correlated with better work performance. It might seem that work-addicted people do everything to succeed at work but, in reality, they can end up unproductive, stressed, and unable to handle the workload they took on.
Are you a workaholic?
Being committed to and passionate about your job are good qualities, but there’s a distinction between having a strong work ethic and being a workaholic—the former is something to be proud of, the latter is a serious condition. Do you identify with some of the following characteristics? If so, it could be time to seek treatment.
How to know if you’re a workaholic
Even though the term “workaholic” has been watered down, work addiction, or workaholism, is a real condition. People with this mental health condition are unable to stop putting in unnecessarily long hours at the office or obsessing over their work performance.
While workaholics may use overwork as an escape from personal problems, workaholism can also damage relationships and physical and mental health. Work addiction is more common in women and people who describe themselves as perfectionists.
According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, if you or your loved ones feel that work is consuming your life, it’s likely that you’re on the workaholism spectrum.
Being able to identify the signs of work addiction is critical if you want to take the initial steps to make changes.
While there are many ways workaholism develops, there are a few clear signs to be aware of:
- You routinely take work home with you.
- You often stay late at the office.
- You continually check email or texts while at home.
Additionally, Manly says that if time with family, exercise, healthy eating, or your social life begin to suffer as a result of a packed work schedule, it’s likely that you have some workaholic tendencies.
Researchers interested in finding out more about work addiction developed an instrument that measures the degree of workaholism: the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. It looks at seven basic criteria to identify work addiction:
- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
- You’ve been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you’re prohibited from working.
- You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
- You work so much that it has hurt your health.
Answering “often” or “always” to at least four of these seven statements may suggest that you have work addiction.
Why women are more at risk for workaholism
Both men and women experience work addiction and work stress. But research shows that women tend to experience workaholism more, and their health seems to be more at risk.
A study found that women who work more than 45 hours a week are at risk for developing diabetes. But the diabetes risk for women who work under 40 hours decreases significantly.
What’s so interesting about these findings is that men don’t face an increased risk for diabetes by working longer hours.
“Women tend to suffer considerably higher levels of work-related stress, anxiety, and depression than men, with workplace sexism and familial responsibilities providing additional career pressures,” explains psychologist Tony Tan.
Women also frequently face the additional workplace pressure of feeling like they:
- have to work twice as hard and long to prove they’re as good as their male colleagues
- aren’t valued (or aren’t being promoted)
- face unequal pay
- lack managerial support
- are expected to balance work and family life
- need to do everything “right”
Dealing with all these added pressures often leaves women feeling completely drained.
“Many women feel they have to work twice as hard and twice as long to be considered on par with their male colleagues or to move ahead,” explains licensed clinical professional counselor Elizabeth Cush, MA, LCPC.
“It’s almost as if we [women] have to prove ourselves as being indestructible in order to be considered equal or worthy of consideration,” she adds.
In this article, we list workaholism symptoms, offer a simple way to identify them, and share suggestions on how to address signs of work addiction.
1. You often work more than planned or expected
Of course, there are times when it’s necessary to work overtime – you might want to take up new challenges, grow your career, or make a client happy. And that’s okay. After all, we’re professionals who need to do what it takes to achieve ambitious results. If you feel like overtiming has taken over your life, and you’re not comfortable with that, it might be a “red flag” alerting you to an unhealthy work commitment, which can be a cause of stress and, in extreme cases, lead to burnout.
2. You always tend to work to forget about troubles in other spheres of life
Workaholics put their job in the first, and often only, place in their life. Working tasks serve as hobbies, fun, and even therapy. If workaholics experience any troubles outside office walls, they work to shift the focus and forget about what is troubling them at the moment.
3. Your working schedule leads to relationship and health issues
If your partner, family, or friends accuse you of spending too little time with them, say that your work is more important than they are, and blame your work – and you – for ruining your relationships, you may be experiencing workaholism symptoms. If you also suffer from headaches, fatigue, forgetfulness, insomnia, and other health conditions, it’s time to reconsider your attitude toward work.
4. You don’t admit your addiction
Yes, you’ve read that right. Working too much is an addiction, and the inability to recognize it may be the worst of the workaholics symptoms. If people don’t see a problem, they can’t solve it. If the people around you never miss an opportunity to tell you that you work TOO much, if you work for the sake of work, if you work more than your employer expects, or don’t have a work-life balance – you might want to check in with yourself, maybe you actually have signs of a workaholic?
These are some of the general characteristics of workaholics. Is it possible to recognize the signs you’re a workaholic on your own.