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Is Workaholism an Addiction?

We all know someone who works to hard, whether it be a close family member, a friend, or a coworker. Sometimes, that person is us. The drive to accomplish things, become successful, or be recognized for our efforts can sometimes be overwhelming and control our entire lives. However, similar to the way addiction affects our lives, working too much can eventually destroy everything we care about if we’re not careful. The adverse mental health effects, like stress, anxiety, depression, and more can all quickly take a toll on us. In some cases, workaholism can even kill.

There are a lot of reasons people become workaholics. Many of us take a great deal of pride in our work, and in some cases it can even serve as something we identify and define ourselves with. However, sometimes aligning so much of who we are with our job can be dangerous. It can start to feel as though who we are, and how good of a person we are, can be measured by our work performance. When that happens, it’s not hard to for us to subconsciously make working our only priority.

Just like with drug addiction, working can easily take over your life. Your priorities can easily shift away from friends, family, and virtually everything else to make room for work. In doing so, your entire life can fall apart. While your work output might increase, your dissatisfaction with literally everything else in your life will skyrocket. Stress, depression, and burning out are extremely likely. Your physical health will likely be impacted as well.

Workaholism is so serious in some places that it’s considered a public health issue. In Japan, overworking to the point of putting yourself in danger is called “karōshi,” which translates literally to “overwork death.” The name is no exaggeration, either. Due to extreme stress and lack of sleep, amongst other things, the health of workaholics can quickly fall apart. These factors can play a role in causing heart disease and stroke, and many become so depressed that they commit suicide. Over working is no joke, and the dangerous parallels to addiction are very clear.

There is no accepted definition of what workaholism actually is. Some say it’s an addiction, while others say it more closely relates to a personality or behavioral disorder. The exact definition isn’t important, however. What is important is recognizing the signs of becoming addicted to your work. While it may not be as clear-cut as drug or alcohol addiction, it can have the same devastating effects.