Statistics say that between 5% and 10% of workers living in first world countries are workaholics. Are you one of them? Your answer may be clearly a “yes” or you may suspect it is, but you don’t know how to determine if what you do is within the normal or if you have a problem that you should treat. Or maybe you know somebody, maybe a very close one, whose behavior might make you think they may have a problem with work addiction.

In addition, projections indicate that this is a growing problem, which means it is expected to increase in the coming years. In this article we will look at an outline of what work addiction is, and some of the symptoms and problems that workaholics often present.

What is work addiction?

Work addiction is not defined in a medical level – at least for now – but it is related to some forms of stress and certain personality disorders.

In English, the term that names people with this addiction to work is the popular “workaholic”, which relates to alcoholism. It first surfaced in 1968 and was popularized in 1971 by Wayne Oates in his book Confessions of a Workaholic.

As we anticipated, the term is not recognized as a psychological pathology, but has great popularity and identifies with those who invest a disproportionate amount of time and effort in their work, so that their health and / or personal life is affected.

Since work has a good social reputation, it is not easy to identify this dependency. What would be frowned upon in other behaviors, such as addiction to gambling or alcoholism, is identified with positive qualities when it comes to work addiction. Therefore, except in very serious or extreme cases, it is rare that it means a social stigma.

The workaholic usually meets the following profile: male between 40 and 50 years, urban, middle class, and professions as a doctor, lawyer or executive. However, and although this is the most common, addiction to work can affect all types of people.

How to identify work addiction?

As with many other addictions, their identification will be more or less difficult depending on who the person performing it (the affected person or a third party), and depending on how serious the case is. In very close cases, it may be relatively easy for a third party to identify that a person may be having a serious problem with their dependence on work. But in other lighter cases, or if it is the person who asks the question to their own self, it can be much more difficult to determine if the behavior is a problem or if it is within the normal range.

However, there are a number of symptoms and problems that may indicate that a person has a higher or lower degree of addiction to work. They can be physical, psychological, social or behavioral.

1. Compulsion for work

It is the basic symptom. The person has an obsession to devote all possible time to their work, so that they forget and forsake other aspects of their life, such as family, hobbies or friendships.

In addition to that, even when they are not working, the person thinks compulsively that they should be doing it, which causes them feelings of guilt.

2. Concern for achieving a high performance

The person not only devotes a great deal of time to work, but also feels the constant need to reach a high level of productivity, so that they will live in a continuous state of anxiety caused by fear of not achieving the expected level of performance.

Paradoxically, on some occasions the very obsession to give a great performance will disturb and tighten the worker, causing their real performance to be poor.

3. Difficulties to interact with others

Work will occupy such a preeminent place in the interests of the person that it will not be able to establish normal relationships with relatives or friends, but neither with co-workers.

4. Self-esteem based on work performance

The person will focus their self-image solely on work performance. Their achievements or abilities in other aspects of life will be of no value to them.

5. Inability to delegate tasks

The obsession to have complete control over their work will lead to the inability to delegate tasks and make teamwork difficult.

6. Cognitive problems

Anxiety, irritability, depression or disregard of any activity other than work will usually present in the workaholic, affecting their character and mood.

7. Physiological problems

Headaches or muscle, stress, insomnia, sexual dysfunctions, and even, in the long term, hypertension and more likeliness to have cardiovascular problems, can affect the workaholic.

8. Social problems

Abandonment and conflict with family or friends, neglecting other responsibilities other than work, and even the promotion of other addictions, such as drug addiction, can occur in some cases of addiction to work.

How to determine if you have work addiction

To determine if a person is suffering from work addiction, in addition to these symptoms and problems usually present a series of behaviors that can give us clues and put us on alert:

  • They avoid any social activity not related to work.
  • They continue to have a poor diet derived from their lack of time or interest in taking care of themselves.
  • They have a poor consideration of their co-workers, whom they consider lazy, inept or irresponsible.
  • They take extra work home – not to be confused with telework – and are continuously connected to their company through mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc.
  • They avoid their partner.
  • They don’t have friends.
  • They don’t have hobbies, because they think they’re a waste of time.
  • They never go on vacations or have holidays, and make excuses in order to continue working instead.

As you can see, although the addiction to work is not yet considered a pathology as such, it can cause very serious problems and symptoms for the person who suffers from it and for those who are around. If you, dear reader, or someone you know suffer from these symptoms, it is very convenient that you consult with a qualified professional to help you.

Remember that health comes first, and although work is important in our lives, it is certainly not the only important thing.