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We all have to work long hours sometimes – that’s what comes with having a job and trying to fulfill all of your duties. Since the COVID pandemic really shifted the way that workplaces operate and people do their jobs, though, many people started re-evaluating their own experiences with work-life balance. This is how we got the Great Resignation movement and other labor-related shifts, like more work-from-home flexibility.
So maybe it’s time we take a look at the reality of “workaholism.”
Did you know that you can actually become addicted to your work? While the term workaholic is often used as a casual referral to someone’s dedication to their career, some people really are addicted to their jobs. This real mental health condition often comes from a compulsive need to achieve status and success or to distract from other challenges a person is facing in life. Those who deal with work addiction get a “high” from working and might not be able to stop, even if these habits negatively affect other parts of their lives and their health.
“In some respects, work addiction is similar to exercise addiction in that it is an activity that should be a part of people’s lives and often has some benefits even when engaged in excessively,” explains Dr. Mark D. Griffiths, a professor of behavioral addiction and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University. “Such activities have been described by Ian Brown as ‘mixed blessings’ addictions. ... However, it should be emphasized that such positive consequences are typically short lasting, and in the long run, addiction will take its toll on health.”
Some people who already have mental health conditions might try to “treat” those conditions by self-medicating. People with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are more likely to go through substance abuse problems. Recently, some psychologists have started saying that some people may even treat their mental disorders with workaholic behavior.
The authors of one 2016 study published in PLOS One wrote, “Workaholism (in some instances) develops as an attempt to reduce uncomfortable feelings of anxiety and depression.” Regular, excessive work habits can cause problems like burnout, depression, job stress and work-life conflict, which can make the symptoms of mental illness even worse. And it may make way for other substance abuse problems.