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When Work Becomes An Addiction


Working hard and loving your work is great, but being addicted to it is something else.  So when does the line get crossed?

Here are a few signs to look out for, in yourself or in someone you love:

  • Always busy and stressed, never enough time for relationships and family, feeling proud of it but also victimized by it.
  • Exhausted, but still pushing, and wearing that exhaustion as a badge of honor.
  • Perfectionistic. Having high standards is good, but perfectionism is a trap.  “Getting it perfect” only happens for brief moments – it is not sustainable as a goal.
  • Work as the only conversation. A one-track mind might be OK with other work addicts, but it can be truly boring for everyone else.

The signature ingredient in any addiction is that it is compulsive.  The rewards of work addiction are: satisfaction of a job well done, money, status and power, which all feel great (like a drug in their own way).  But you always want more, and that’s the catch.  Once you are addicted, control is lost –you are owned by the thing you are pursuing.

Last but definitely not least, addictions are not just about what you getthey are also about what you are getting away from. Peel back an addiction and you will find some internal pain that needs attention – like feelings of “never good enough” or losses that have never been faced.

There is increased awareness now about drug and alcohol addictions, with rehab centers available and employers who are tolerant of time off for recovery.  Not so for work addiction.  It is still not seen clearly for what it is, and in fact is encouraged, which makes the ability to recognize it even harder.

Maybe it is time for you to ask the question:  “Do I just love my work, or am I addicted to it?”  Read more in my book, Someone To Talk To; What Really happens in Therapy and How it Can Work for You. 

Find it on Amazon, or on my website/book page