Excessive Working Habits: When Work Becomes an Addiction

Man struggling with gambling addiction

Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “moderation is key” with the understanding that finding balance in life is necessary for success. Anything in excess is usually detrimental, and this is particularly true when it comes to addiction type behaviors and habits.

Anyone who becomes addicted to something does not typically set out to become an “addict”, but the repetitive and excessive use of a substance or behavior can lead a susceptible individual to develop an addiction with adverse consequences.

What if excessive behaviors are seen in a positive manner, or perhaps even rewarded?

Sunspire Health

This can certainly create confusion as to when a behavior is healthy or not, especially is someone is receiving applause or recognition for something that is being achieved or accomplished.

For those individuals who may be dealing with an addiction to work, these are the types of mixed messages that may be received.

The consequences of a work addiction may not seem as immediate or harmful as an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but the potentially negative effects that can arise are detrimental in both the short and long term.

Guy sitting with laptop

The difficulty may be in understanding what is truly a work addiction and the means that are available for seeking out help and support. Many people may brush off an addiction to work as being overzealous about a career or dedication to the workforce.

However, a true work addiction is identified by certain behaviors and habits that may reveal a deeper problem is at hand. Understanding these signs and symptoms can be helpful in differentiating between a work addiction and other behaviors.

Euphoria from Success

Similarly to a person who achieves a “high” from abusing a substance, an individual who is addicted to their work will also experience a type of euphoria from engaging in their career, which often leads them to perpetuate addictive types of behaviors within the workforce.

An addiction to work can also be recognized by the inability to stop certain behaviors, even when negative effects arise.

A person who is addicted to their work will often continue on in their behaviors, even if this is poorly influencing personal or mental health.

Signs that a person is struggling with a work addiction may vary based on the individual but might include:

  • artist-paintingAn obsession with work-related success
  • Sacrificing personal or family time to find more hours to spend at work
  • Intense fear about failing at work
  • Isolation from relationships due to work related activities
  • Spending an excessive amount of time at work, even when not necessarily needed
  • Using work as an escape or means of coping with overwhelming emotions

Work Addiction Indicators

Many people do not realize that several factors can be used to identify a work addiction, and if you suspect that you or a loved one may be dealing with this disorder, it is important to have a professional evaluation by a specialist.

If you have found yourself obsessing over work, sacrificing mental, physical, and emotional health due to your work, feeling stressed when unable to work, and working as a means of reducing intense emotions, you may have a work addiction.

These are severe signs that should be taken seriously and not dismissed or justified as commitment or dedication to your work and job.


The good news is that professional help is available, and there are several treatment options that can effectively assist a person in overcoming an addiction to work and learn how to find balance again.

Treatment options may include an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program, 12-step support groups or other forms of group therapy, individualized behavioral therapy, medication management, and more.

Seeking out treatment as early as possible can help improve the prognosis and allow an individual to find a healthy balance with work in their life. A work addiction can be manageable with the right help, support, and treatment resources.

Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 16, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.