Addicted to Work

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Addicted to Work 

A popular question is 'can you get addicted to working?' since we live in a society that glorifies hard work and success, it can be difficult for an individual to view over-working as an issue. 

Work addiction, or as it is also known as workaholism, is a mental illness and a behavioural addiction.

Like drug abuse or alcohol addiction, a person with work addiction achieves a "high" from working. This feel-good experience compels them to put in more hours working. 

Some people become addicted to work because of the desire to succeed or achieve a certain status. Others end up with this addiction as a means of escape from personal challenges or emotional turmoil. 

Those seeking addiction treatment for work addiction can benefit from attending a workaholic rehab. A private rehab facility is qualified to provide professional treatment for work addiction, plus other addictions. 

What is workaholism? 

The term workaholism was coined in 1971 by psychologist Wayne Oates [1].  

He defined it as a "compulsive or uncontrollable need to work constantly." Up to date, there is no standard definition of the term. Moreover, workaholism or work addiction is not formally recognized in the DSM-V. 

There has been a steady growth in research about workaholism in the past decade. What is known is that workaholism is a mental health issue. This condition is chronic and progressive similar to alcohol or drug abuse [2].  

A person develops a psychological, emotional, and social dependence on work. This, in turn, negatively affects other aspects of their lives. 

Signs you are addicted to work. 

You can get addicted to working. Below are the signs to look for: 

  • You are regularly thinking of ways to create time for work, even during your off-days. 
  • You regularly work late at night and find yourself working overtime beyond what you initially intended. 
  • You find yourself working to cope with emotional stress, depression, anxiety, and helplessness. 
  • You've ignored requests from loved ones and colleagues to reduce your work time. 
  • You become stressed and irritable when unable to work for an extended period. 
  • Work takes up most of your time, and you barely have time for hobbies, recreation, or for loved ones. 
  • Working excessively has negatively affected your health and well-being. 

Diagnosis for work addiction 

Addiction experts use the Bergen work addiction scale to diagnose work addiction.

The scale consists of a set of questions related to the negative effects of work. The items are measured on a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (always). 

Questions you may be asked to rate include: 

  • How often do you think of freeing up time for work? 
  • Do you prioritize work to avoid dealing with guilt, depression, and anxiety? 
  • You've been told to reduce your worktime but ignored the requests. 
  • You find yourself spending more time working than you initially intended. 
  • You get stressed when unable to work. 
  • You work so much that it has affected your health. 
  • You lower the importance of hobbies, exercise, or recreation in exchange for more work time. 

Peer-reviewed studies show that if you answer "often" or "always" to at least four of these items, you are suffering from work addiction [3]. 

Negative outcomes from work addiction 

People suffering from work addiction are likely to be in denial about it. They may make excuses about the long hours spent at work. Some people carry their work home leading to deteriorating relationships with loved ones. 

Family members looking for work addiction treatment for a loved one may be able to spot the consequences of this addiction on their mental and physical health. 

The following symptoms are outcomes of work addiction: 

  • Signs of depression  
  • Increased anxiety. 
  • Fatigue 
  • Irritability 
  • Heightened stress levels 
  • Increased substance abuse. 
  • Increased conflict with friends and family members. 
  • Burnout 
  • Disillusion  [4] [5]. 

What causes work addiction? 

Similar to alcohol or drug addiction, the exact causes of work addiction are unknown. A combination of factors include: 

Genetics:Research shows that people with a genetic predisposition to workaholism [6].  

Like other behavioural health conditions, some people have inherited a genetic code that makes them vulnerable to work addiction. 

Family upbringing & the environment: It is good to raise children in a family that promotes work ethic. The issue, however, is that some parents place a lot of emphasis on work without communicating the value of taking time off to enjoy other things or for rest.  

Such an upbringing is likely to result in work addiction in adulthood. Work addiction affects people who prioritize career and success.

Those who desire status and have an internal pressure to pursue it are also at risk of developing work addiction. 

Our treatment services can help you identify this addiction and work to reclaim your personal life.

Our team of experts will provide you with an intensive therapeutic programme designed for treating addiction. Contact us today to learn more. 

Free addiction assessment at our treatment centres  

Our addiction treatment centres offer an initial free addiction treatment assessment. This helps you gain a comprehensive understanding of your addiction.

The assessment clarifies how the addiction has affected your psychological and physical health. We also provide a dual diagnosis to determine any co-occurring disorders. 

Substance abuse cases are not the only additions linked to mental health problems. Some people with work addiction also exhibit mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 

If you feel that you have any signs and adverse outcomes for work addiction, you can seek treatment at residential centres. 

Risk factors for developing work addiction 

History of addictions: 

People with a history of addictions or are currently struggling with addiction are at risk of developing work addiction. Substance abuse, eating disorders, or other addictions put an individual at risk of developing other forms of addiction. 


People who are labelled as perfectionists are at risk of overworking. Such people are likely to embrace workaholism because it sets them apart from others.

They may avoid resting because they get a sense of pride when they overcome obstacles or complete work. However, the compulsive urge to work puts them at risk of overworking. 

Other risk factors include career ambitions, national or work culture. Some studies show that aging increases the risk of developing addiction, including work addiction [7]. 

Some medically reviewed journals show that people in certain professions are at risk of overworking. Highly demanding jobs such as nursing or lawyer or fields where extra work is rewarded are likely to lead to overworking. 

Addiction treatment 

Rehab works to help you break the physical and psychological dependence on work addiction or substance addiction.

Treatment entails one-on-one therapy and, at times, medications depending on the severity of the addiction.

Medication-assisted treatment may be administered if the patient also suffers from mental health problems such as stress, depression, or anxiety. 

A good residential treatment programme provides you with a tailored addiction treatment plan designed to meet your needs.

In most cases, those with work addiction do not require the same length and level of treatment as is the case for drug or alcohol rehab. 

For starters, you will not need medical detoxification for withdrawal symptoms in the case of substance use disorders. Treatment mainly entails psychotherapy sessions such as cognitive behavioural therapy.  

The goal is to re-train your thoughts and emotions to eliminate the compulsive urge to work. Addiction treatment will also involve stress management. 

The rehab options available for work addiction include: 

Outpatient treatment 

You receive treatment as an outpatient. This entails day care and outpatient therapy. You will get a treatment like inpatient.

Outpatient provides you with flexibility as you receive treatment while attending to your personal obligations. You will go through a bespoke treatment plan plus 12 months of free aftercare post-treatment. 

Outpatient treatment entails a range of therapies such as CBT, motivational interviewing, family therapy, group therapy and holistic therapies. 

Residential "inpatient" treatment for work addiction 

Those with chronic work addiction attend rehab at a residential facility. This option is not only effective for substance use issues but also for work addictions. Inpatient treatment provides you with a supportive environment.  

Treatment mainly focuses on overcoming the co-occurring disorders such as alcohol or drug abuse or psychiatric issues such as depression, anxiety, or any other behavioural health issue that negatively affects you and those around you. 

Inpatient care is linked to long-term success. This treatment option helps you deal with any chronic conditions or chronic diseases co-existing with the addiction.

The recovering addict also gets to engage in activities designed for educational purposes, e.g., how to create a proper work-life balance. 

Mental health services administration 

The substance abuse mental health services administration (SAMHSA) identifies mental illness as highly comorbid in people with addiction [8]. 

Failure to screen the patient of mental issues leads to low treatment rates, engagement, retention, and completion. 

SAMHSA treatment protocol for behavioural health conditions calls for specialized psychotherapies that aim to change the patient's thoughts, emotions, and behaviours [9].  

SAMHSA recommends an early treatment that offers a combination of counselling and medication. 

Residential treatment for drug addiction plus other types of addiction  

Although there are various treatment options, residential rehabilitation is the best option for addiction treatment.

Residential services are the best treatment approach for drug and alcohol addictions. This approach increases your chances for long-term sobriety. 

The National Institute on drug addiction states that addiction has a lower relapse rate than chronic conditions such as hypertension [10].  

Addiction can be treated and is best treated at a residential rehab. 

Treatment entails 24-hour care and support at one of our treatment centres. You get to immerse yourself in a safe and supportive environment where treatment will be administered by a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists and therapists. 

The 28-day treatment is a suitable recovery programme for severe cases. During the early stages of treatment, work addicts may experience anxiety and depression because they're unable to work.

There are cases where the patient shows signs like those experienced during withdrawal from alcohol or drug use. Your treatment provider will address these symptoms through counselling and behavioural modifications. 

Does rehab work? 

A popular question is does rehabilitation work? Most people perceive that rehab is working when it 'cures' many patients. 

This is a common misconception, yet the reality is that an alcohol or drug rehab does not cure addiction. 

Rehabilitation programmes are effective at setting people on a path to long-term recovery. They do this by providing medications and multiple therapies.

Each rehab centre has its definition of success. That's why it's best to look for a credible and trusted facility that treats your whole being. 

Your willingness to complete the recovery program and attitude will also increase the success rate. 

Rehab can work for a drug and alcohol addiction plus other behavioural addictions.

Rehab success is measured by several factors such as: 

  • Improved relationships with friends, loved ones and other people. 
  • Improved physical health as evidenced by fewer medical visits. 
  • Improved mental health as evidenced by improved mood, behaviours, and personality traits. 
  • Lower incidences of accidents or injuries indicate improved safety. This factor refers to cases of drug and alcohol misuse. 
  • Improved legal status in cases where the addiction resulted in legal problems. 

The national institute on drug abuse points out that there is no cure for addiction. Instead, there are treatments [8].  

You should look for a treatment provider who will track your progress as you continue with treatment. This will ensure timely identification of setbacks and help the treatment provider implement the right solutions for the setbacks. 

Relapse is a common part of recovery. As such, you should research treatment centres that provide effective treatment and up to 12 months of aftercare. 

Support groups for workaholics UK 

The support group for workaholics is Workaholics anonymous [11].  

Like alcoholics anonymous, workaholics anonymous utilizes the 12-steps recovery programme to treat work addiction.

The preceding steps take you through a spiritual and emotional journey that leads you in gaining control over your life. 

You can check the workaholics UK website to find a meeting near you[12].  

You can also contact us. We provide medical advice on treatment options available, plus we'll help you find the best solution for you. 

How do you stop being addicted to work? 

There are steps you can take to stop overworking. These steps include: 

Redefine success.  

In most cases, workaholics are perfectionists. It feels good to tackle obstacles at work and achieve your professional goals. But your self-work should not be connected to your status, prestige, or paycheck.

You should redefine success by acknowledging the importance of making time for family and self-care. 

Think about what matters  

There will always work to be done. You need to be conscious of your power to control your time. Whereas there will always work to be done, time spent with friends and loved ones can never be replaced.

What's more, you should avoid multitasking. Train yourself to focus on one thing at a time and make a conscious choice to enjoy your time resting, watching, or playing sports, or engaging with loved ones. 


Seek accountability & support from loved ones  

Breaking addiction is not easy. To succeed in recovery, you need to seek the assistance of friends and family members.

Also, you need to communicate to your boss and co-workers why you need to tone down the time spent on work.  

You can inform your boss that taking some time off for your personal wellbeing will result in an improvement in your productivity.

You can avoid overworking by telling your boss and co-workers that you will be unavailable from a certain time. 

Try digital detoxes 

People do turn to their smartphones to check email or other work-related stuff. Yet to stop overworking, you must learn to be physically present without being psychologically absent.

You do this by taking a digital detox to hide your phone after work. Stop turning to your phone during your free time and focus on using that time to rest or engage with others. 

Practice mindfulness 

Medically reviewed research shows that mindfulness has numerous benefits: improved concentration, mental clarity, and improved emotional intelligence and self-control [13].  

Mindfulness helps you become aware of your present moment. This helps you have more control over your time and be more deliberate over your choices. 

Prioritize your health 

Prioritizing sleep, nutrition and exercise will help you improve your health and become more productive at work.

Numerous medically reviewed journals show that people who prioritize their health, e.g., take breaks, rest, and exercise, have more energy. 

Such people can focus on their work and become more productive. Developing a healthy lifestyle not only benefits you. It also benefits your clients, co-workers, boss, and your loved ones. 

Go for rehab  

Rehab provides you with detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare/ongoing recovery.

Medically reviewed studies show that entering a rehabilitation centre that caters to every aspect of your health, including the spiritual element, have a better chance at recovery [14].  

84% of scientific research shows that faith is indispensable in addiction prevention or recovery. This spiritual element is embodied in the 12-steps programme and fellowships that are a core part of alcoholics anonymous. 

Frequently asked questions 

Can you get addicted to working? 

There are numerous medically reviewed research shows getting addicted to working is possible. This compulsion to work is a mental health disorder.

It is often caused by various factors such as a compulsive desire to succeed, attain status or escape emotional stress. 

How long can you stay in rehab? 

Your length of stay is based on several factors that include the severity of the addiction. In most cases, work addiction is not as intense as other forms of addiction.

Outpatient service is common in cases of work addiction. For inpatient rehab, a typical stay may last 28 days. 

What is the treatment for workaholics? 

People struggling with work addiction have a variety of treatment options. They can go for inpatient or outpatient services depending on their needs.

Treatment mainly entails a variety of therapies such as group therapy, one-on-one counselling, family therapy, and holistic therapies. The rehab programme is designed to help you achieve long-term recovery. 

Does rehabilitation work for everyone? 

Rehab sets you on a path towards recovery. It provides you with the knowledge and tools you need to maintain a healthy, well-balanced life. Rehab only works if the person is committed to recovery.

Your attitude, commitment and determination will determine whether rehab works for you or not. 

Each person responds differently to addiction. That's why it's vital to seek professional medical advice on the best way to treat your addiction plus other co-occurring conditions. 

What does it mean to go to rehab? 

Going to rehab means leaving the comforts of home and the addiction life. It means admitting you need help and entering a rehab centre so that you can improve your health and wellbeing. 

There are good, CQC registered treatment centres that provide treatment for a range of behavioural addictions.

Our rehab facilities, for instance, provide treatment for any mental health problem, substance use, plus behavioural addictions. 

When you enter our residential facility, you will experience a structured routine with a series of therapeutic sessions and activities designed to help you build a life free of addiction. 

What is the cost of rehab? 

Rehab cost alcohol and drug rehab vary depending on the treatment provider. The length of treatment and severity of the addiction also influences the cost of treatment.

Treatment costs about £1,400 or more. This is the cost per week. 

A typical 28-day rehab option can cost upwards of £6,950. 

What qualifications do you need to work in rehabilitation? 

There are a variety of educational pathways that you can follow. Some positions may only require certifications. e.g., If you are looking to work as a nursing aid or psychiatrist assistant.

Other positions may require you to pursue a Masters in an addiction-related field. Alternatively, you can pursue an associate degree in Health Information Management if you are interested in a managerial position. 

Rehab work in an alcohol drug rehab can be rewarding. If interested in pursuing this profession, you can start by volunteering at a rehab.

Working with addicts and providing substance use treatment requires patience and empathy. You'll need to be committed to your patients and remain resilient despite failures.  

There are skills that you need to build. For starters, you need to be able to work under pressure and in highly emotional situations. You also need to communicate with other care professionals in different departments.

It's important that you cultivate the right values and behaviours as you will be working with vulnerable individuals. That's why volunteering at a rehabilitation centre as part of training/apprenticeship.  

In some cases, you may not get work at a rehab facility immediately after completing your education.

You can use the time to work on acquiring relevant skills by working at hospitals or counselling clinics. This will increase your chances of getting to work at a rehab.  

Get help today 

A team of medical reviewers has medically reviewed the content in this article. We strive to provide trustworthy health information to make an informed treatment decision.

We also provide medical advice and intervention services if you seek treatment on behalf of a loved one. 

Our treatment centres offer both inpatient and outpatient services. We also provide a dual diagnosis to help determine if co-occurring health problems need treatment. It's vital that you enter rehab with dual-diagnosis care.

It is common for people with addiction to have other mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or anxiety. 

If you or your loved one need treatment for work addiction or any other addiction issues, you can get in touch with us today. Our treatment options have helped hundreds of people change their lives.

We aim to provide physical, psychological, and spiritual healing so that you can enjoy the benefits of an addiction-free life. 

You can contact us today to get started. 

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About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023