Workaholism or work addiction is a real mental health addiction like any other addiction, explained Mara Tyler of Healthline, a website on medicine and health. Unfortunately, it does not appear in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Work addiction stems from a compulsive need to achieve success, gain status, or escape emotional stress.
Those with work addiction get “high” from working. They will repeat the behavior until they feel “high” again. Workaholism affects the individual’s personal life, as well as their physical or mental health. Elizabeth Hartney, BSc., MSc., MA, Ph.D. of mental health platform Very Well Mind said the urge to work goes deeper than paying the bills, suggesting that there are some people who are addicted to work.
Millennials Are Workaholics And Are Less Likely to Take A Vacation
A survey by Project: Time Off and GfK found that Millennials (43% versus 29% of overall respondents) were more likely to see themselves as “work martyrs” than older workers and were also less likely to use all their vacation time, quoted Sarah Green Carmichael of Harvard Business Review Ascend, a website dedicated to career growth and development.
After gathering roughly 5,000 full-time employees who receive paid time off as a benefit, 48% of Millennials wanted their boss to see them as “work martyrs”, compared to 39% of Gen X and 23% of Boomers. 24% of Millennials forfeited unused vacation days unlike 19% of Gen Xers and 17% of Boomers.
Speaking of which, car rental agency Alamo Rent A Car found that 59% of employed Millennials felt shameful for taking or planning a vacation compared to their colleagues aged 35 or older (41%), mentioned Enterprise Holding, a private company in the US.
While Millennials were more likely to be victims of vacation shaming, Alamo’s research suggested that it affected all generations. 47% said they felt shameful or guilty for taking time off to go on a vacation. 42% thought their colleagues were seriously shaming them and were not kidding about it. 47% said they’ve felt the need to justify to their employer the reasons why they are deciding to use their vacation days.
Nearly Half of Americans See Themselves As “Workaholics”
In a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of The Vision Council, 48% of 2,000 employed Americans considered themselves as modern-day workaholics, cited Tyler Schmall of New York Post, a daily newspaper in New York City. 52% of American office workers said they do check their work email while still in bed after waking up. 28% “workaholic” Americans said they work so hard out of financial necessity.
According to the study, the top signs of a workaholic were prioritizing work before personal life (54%), worrying about work on a day off (51%), struggling to switch off or actually working while on a vacation (50%), and checking emails in the middle of the night (48%).
On average, an employed American works four hours a week a free and they also spend an additional four hours a week just thinking about work. 53% said they were currently stressed out about work. The poll also found that 80% of American adults used digital devices for over two hours a day with nearly 67% using two or more devices at the same time, and 59% said they experienced symptoms of digital eye strain.
Among Americans, 32% reported experiencing eye strain, 27% experienced dry eyes, 28% said they had headaches, 28% experienced blurred vision, and 35% reported neck and shoulder pain.
It Can Be Hard to Notice the Signs of Work Addiction
We live in a culture where hard work is applauded and putting in overtime is often mandated by firms. Since overwork is commended financially and culturally, the worker may be seen more positively if they put in overtime. People who are addicted to work justify their behavior, arguing that it is a good thing and can help them become successful. Yes, some are ambitious and driven to achieve their goals, but addiction and ambition are different things.
Some of the signs of work addiction are putting in long hours at work (even if it’s unnecessary), losing sleep to work on projects and tasks, being obsessed with work-related success, and being fearful of failure at work. Being paranoid about your performance at work can also be a sign of workaholism. Disengaging from your personal relationships due to work and using your job to cope with depression or guilt are symptoms of work addiction.
What If I’m Addicted to Work?
“Try taking a break and see how you feel,” recommended Hartney. If you can’t stop thinking about work or you feel you are using your job as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable feelings, you can consult a mental health professional.
Work addiction can also stem from a “coexisting mental health condition” like OCD or bipolar disorder. Be aware it can also cause depression and other mental health problems. In this case, you can have your mental health assessed. A professional can help you design a treatment plan that will help address work addiction and other underlying issues.
Further, many people with work addiction reach out for help through 12-step groups and other therapy programs. You can try those too. You can avail of group therapy in organizations that cater to work addiction. Such programs allow you to connect with other people who share the same struggles as you. Most of all, those programs also provide you a healthy support system.
Other than that, try balancing your work and personal life, introducing lifestyle changes, or avoiding stressors and triggers. A career change may also help manage work addiction. If you’re recovering from work addiction, it is important to develop a healthy relationship with work.
What Happens If I Don’t Get Help?
Work addiction will worsen each day until you get help. It’s possible to experience “burnout” if you work to the point of physical or mental exhaustion. This can contribute to extreme stress, drug abuse, and damaged personal relationships. Overworking yourself may compromise your immune system and increase your risk of contracting diseases.
Overcoming work addiction is challenging, but it is possible to recover when it is treated as early as possible. We have to remember to take occasional rests from work. But employers should also help their employees take care of their health and wellbeing.