7 Signs You May Be Addicted to Work

Portrait of overwhelmed fat man sleeping in office with documents on his head

Being a workaholic is something that some people might joke about. Addiction researchers take it seriously, though. Being addicted to work is a real thing and it can be a real problem for some people.

According to researchers, work addiction is mainly characterized by working excessively and compulsively. In other words, if you are a workaholic you feel compelled to work for more hours than is normal. To decide if you’re addicted to work, you may need to get into more specifics. Here are seven classic signs that you may be addicted to work:

  1. You spend time thinking about how you can work more hours each day. This means that you actively look for time that can be spent working. That trip to the zoo you promised the kids this weekend? They won’t be too upset if you skip it to head into the office, right? Maybe date night with your spouse can be jettisoned in favor of working.
  2. You work more than you mean to. Do you often tell your spouse you’ll be home in an hour, only to look at the clock and realize that three hours have passed since you made that promise? Do you tell yourself you’ll just spend two hours at the office Saturday and then stay the whole day?
  3. You devote yourself to work to escape from unpleasant emotions. You feel anxious, depressed or guilty, and to tamp down those feelings you keep yourself busy at work. If you’re busy, you can’t think about it, right?
  4. Friends or family ask you to cut back at work, but you don’t listen. We can often judge another person’s well-being or state of mind better than we can judge ourselves. If your loved ones are worried about your level of work, you might really have a problem.
  5. Not being able to work stresses you out. You really have to come home in time to attend an event. It is non-negotiable, but the whole time you’re there you think about work. You feel anxious and stressed out because you really want to be in the office getting work done.
  6. Other activities fall by the wayside because of your devotion to work. You used to jog in the morning before work, but now you get up early to get to the office instead. You haven’t been able to read that book sitting at your bedside because work seems more important.
  7. Your work habits are harming your health. Maybe you aren’t taking time to eat well or exercise anymore and you have gained weight as a result. Or the stress of working long hours is causing you to sleep poorly, and yet you don’t slow down.

The above signs of work addiction come from research and surveys of thousands of people. Psychiatrists use them as a scale to assess the level of addiction a patient has to work. If you respond to four or more of these signs by saying that you are often or always like that, you might have a work addiction.

If you’re thinking about it, you are on the right path. Try to cut back on work and add in some other activities that you used to enjoy. Spend more time with family and less time in the office. If you find that you can’t make these changes and that not being at work makes you feel anxious or sick, you may need some professional guidance. See a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you work through your workaholism.

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