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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Work addiction: Are you a workaholic?

The actor Idris Elba has been in the press this week talking about his addiction to work. When we think about addiction, we often think about things we consume, like alcohol, drugs or tobacco. But I'm often interested in other areas of our life where we can throw ourselves into compulsive behaviours. I spoke to The Independent for their article on work addiction. Here's a link to the full article, and here are my thoughts on the topic of work addiction.

What is work addiction?

It's common to be motivated or ambitious when it comes to work. This links with how we see ourselves and how we want to be seen by others, and our sense of self-esteem. So how do you know when your approach to the workplace feels like an addiction? I would say that it's when work becomes compulsive. When you feel out of control, and as if it's controlling you.

What causes work addiction?

As with other addictions, there are so many factors at play. There are elements of the workplace that might draw you in to compulsive behaviour. It could be a particular industry, project, colleague or manager who triggers you in some way. There might be colleagues who work long hours, and you feel compelled to keep up with them.

But it's not always the workplace. You might have a really understanding boss and a really relaxed work culture but still feel this way. Underlying factors can turn your ambition and motivation into an addiction. For example:

  • 'People pleasing' or low self-esteem might make it hard to prioritise yourself and say 'no' to tasks at work.

  • Perfectionism can drive you to spend endless hours on a job. Social media can make this even harder, if our work (or that of our colleagues or competitors) is on display.

  • Loneliness or boredom might leave a gap in your life that you fill with your work.

  • Work might provide a distraction if you're avoiding other problems if your life, family or relationships

  • If you struggle to feel as if you're in control, then your workplace might provide you with a sense that you're in control

Warning signs to watch out for:

  • Attaching success and meaning solely to work productivity

  • Exhaustion, burnout

  • Irritability

  • Neglecting other areas of your life.

But remember that as with all addictions, not all workaholics are the same. It might be consistent, it might be in bursts, it might be visible or it might be hidden.

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at your relationship with your work and your sense of motivation and ambition. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.

Work addiction: Are you a workaholic?

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