Work addiction is common in individuals described as perfectionists because it provides a type of “high” craved by high achievers. Though it may appear at first glance to be a “noble” issue to have, work addiction is actually a mental health condition that may negatively impact an individual’s mental and physical health and personal life.
To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the University of Nevada, Reno’s Master of Social Work Program.
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Identifying Work Addiction
1 in 10 Americans are living with work addiction. In other words, 10% of Americans have the compulsive urge to overwork for various reasons, like reducing anxiety or to quiet the fear of failure.
There are numerous causes and risk factors to work addiction. Some of these include national or work culture, career ambitions, education level, age, genetics, personality, and family upbringing.
There are also several symptoms associated with work addiction. Some of these directly relate to work, such as staying long hours when not required, becoming obsessed with work-related performance, or sacrificing personal relationships for work. Other symptoms are emotional, such as having an intense fear of failure at work. Another set of symptoms involve using work as shield for other issues, from dealing with crises like financial trouble to coping with feelings of guilt or as a reason to avoid relationships.
Diagnosing Work Addiction
To diagnose work addiction, the Bergen Work Addiction Scale requires rating certain items on a scale of never, rarely, sometimes, often or always. These items include: Ignoring request to reduce the time spent working; working to avoid feeling guilty, helpless, depressed, or anxious; thinking of what you can do to free up more time for work; allowing work to negatively impact your health; ending up working more than initially intended; feeling stress when unable to work; and don’t consider time spent on hobbies, fun activities, or fitness as important as time working. An individual with work addiction will rate at least four of these items as “often” or “always.”
The Effects of Work Addiction
Contrary to the myth that some types of work addiction are positive, work addictions have many negative effects.
How Work Addiction Takes Its Toll
Work addiction can lead to numerous issues detrimental to overall job performance. This includes decreased productivity, impaired judgment, emotional and nervous breakdowns, burnout, and poor health.
7 Myths About Work Addiction
Work addiction can be treacherous because it’s associated with seven prevalent myths. For example, the idea of work addiction being a new behavioral addiction is false – it may merely appear like this because research was nonexistent for many years. Another myth is work addiction equates to workaholism. In everyday language, workaholism has been referred to as having some positive components. Work addiction being a result of personality factors is also a myth; while some personality traits may predispose people to work addiction, career-related variables, professional rules, work culture and job demands can also influence work addiction.
Additionally, the notion that work addiction has only psychosocial consequences is inaccurate. Work addiction is directly related to poor physical health, including poor cardiovascular health. An additional myth is that work addiction only occurs in adulthood. Studies have identified study addiction among students and claimed that this is an antecedent to work addiction. A sixth myth is the claim that some types of work addiction are positive. In truth, more research is necessary to determine whether the positive aspects of excessive work investments, such as high levels of drive, work enjoyment and involvement, can be considered types of work addiction. Finally, the notion that work addiction is just a transient behavioral pattern influenced by situational factors might be a myth, as more research is necessary to determine the claim’s accuracy.
Breaking Free of Work Addiction
Individuals living with work addiction have many options when seeking treatment. In addition, some work addiction can be eliminated by taking simple steps to change daily habits.
One of the treatment options can seek out is individual therapy for personalized treatment. Another option is group therapy, such as Workaholics Anonymous. A third option is rehabilitation programs that can address a coexisting mental illness.
Tips for Addressing Work Addiction
There are also numerous strategies that an individual can deploy to overcome work addiction. One of these strategies is to develop an understanding that true success in life involves having a purpose, respecting the needs of your family and health, and accepting that you shouldn’t expect to excel at everything. Another strategy revolves around resetting expectations, such as outline the benefits of work disengagement and asking coworkers, friends, and family to support your efforts. Thirdly, it can be important to schedule digital detoxes like putting devices away while you’re having a conversation or stop using your phone to fill time spent waiting. A fourth strategy is to practice mindfulness, like practicing nonjudgmental awareness or making conscious choices about your life. Finally, it can be vital to make your health a priority.
In today’s fast-paced modern world, work addiction has become the elephant in the room that needs to be identified and addressed by business leaders, managers, social workers and health care practitioners. The solution to work addiction should involve developing a healthy workplace culture and adjusting our society’s definition of success. Leaders and managers should play an active role in supporting employees’ efforts to maintain a health balance between work and their personal lives.
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University of Nevada, Reno, Online Master of Social Work Program