Addiction Addictive Behaviors How to Tell If You Are Addicted to Work By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 24, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Hero Images / Getty Images As we are all affected by the shifting economy, many of us are working harder than ever before and feeling overworked as a result. Yet for some, the urge to work more and more goes deeper than simply needing to pay the bills—some are addicted to work. What Is a 'Workaholic?' Work addiction, or "workaholism," was first used to describe an uncontrollable need to work constantly. A workaholic is someone who suffers from this condition. Although a widely recognized and accepted concept in popular culture, and despite the existence of forty years of literature on the subject, work addiction is not a formally recognized medical condition or mental disorder. It does not appear in the current version of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM), the DSM-5. One of the reasons for this lack of recognition of work addiction is that work—even excessive work—is typically thought of as a positive trait rather than a problem. Overwork is rewarded, both financially and culturally, and may lead to the worker being seen in a more positive light in different ways. However, work addiction can be a very real problem and can interfere with functioning and relationships, in similar ways to other addictions. The original reason the term "workaholic" was coined was to demonstrate the parallel between work addiction and alcoholism, and this is probably more accurate than the common perception that someone who works excessively is a responsible and ethical person. Problems Associated With Work Addiction Although excessive work is often well regarded and even rewarded, there are problems associated with work addiction. As with other addictions, work addiction is driven by compulsion, rather than by a healthy sense of fulfillment that is common among people who simply put a lot of effort and dedication into their job, or people who are deeply committed to their work as a vocation. In fact, people who fall prey to work addiction may be quite unhappy and distressed about work, they may be overly concerned about work, they may feel out of control of their desire to work, and they may spend so much time, energy, and effort on work that it impairs non-work relationships and activities outside of work. Signs and Symptoms Despite the difficulties in precisely defining work addiction, several signs of workaholism have been identified. They include: Increased busyness without an increase in productivity Obsessively thinking about how you can free up more time for work Spending more time working than intended Excessive use of work to maintain one's self-worth Working to reduce feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness Ignoring suggestions or requests from others to cut down on work Relationship problems resulting from overwork or preoccupation with work Health problems resulting from work-related stress and/or overwork Using work as a way of coping with, escaping, or numbing feelings Developing tolerance to work, so needing to work more to get the same effects Becoming stressed if prevented from working or experiencing withdrawal if you are not working Relapsing to overwork when you try and cut down or stop These signs and symptoms of work addiction share many characteristics with other addictions, particularly other behavioral addictions, in which the commitment to the activity or behavior becomes increasingly more important, and overshadows other important areas of life and relationships. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. What If I Might Be Addicted to Work? If you think you may be addicted to work, try taking a break and see how you feel. If you are unable to switch off from thinking about work, and if you sense you are escaping into work to avoid other responsibilities or uncomfortable feelings, you may benefit from treatment from a mental health professional. Although you are unlikely to find a work addiction treatment program, many of the approaches used to treat other addictions can be used to help control a range of addictive behaviors. Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Andreassen CS, Griffiths MD, Hetland J, Pallesen S. Development of a work addiction scale. Scand J Psychol. 2012;53(3):265-272. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2012.00947.x Shifron R, Reysen R. Workaholism: Addiction to work. Journal of Individual Psychology 67:136-146. 2011. Wojdylo, K., Baumann, N., Buczny, J., Owens, G., Kuhl, J. Work craving: A conceptualization and measurement. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 2013;35(6):547–568. doi:10.1080/01973533.2013.840631 By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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