How to know if you’re addicted to work – and what it is doing to your body

Like any addiction, workaholism isn’t rational. Even if we know that working non-stop isn’t producing results, it can still provide addicts with a much needed sense of validation. “The key is to stop wrapping up work with your sense of identity,” says Clark. “I work hard but I don’t think my work defines me. I make sure I am putting equal effort into my social life, my family and my hobbies. And I remember that my value as a person is about more than what I do for a living.”

Of course, many people feel as if they have no choice but to throw themselves into work in order to financially survive. Again, Clark says this requires a perspective shift: “You need to understand that beyond a certain point money is not going to solve all of your problems. I grew up poor and fear of scarcity drove my approach to work. But earning enough to survive shouldn’t mean you need to sacrifice every other aspect of your life, especially your health.” She recommends the book Money Zen: The Secret To Finding Your Enough by Manisha Thakor as a useful tool in resetting your financial perspective.

Often, it is a workaholic’s spouse or partner who identifies the problem. “Many of the work addicts I spoke with were pushed to seek help by their wife or husband, who gave them an ultimatum” says Clark. “The spouses themselves often said that being married to a workaholic felt like being a single parent. Their partner wasn’t ever there – if not physically, then emotionally – because work came first.”

So what should someone do if their partner won’t face up to their own work issues? “Communication is key,” says Clark. “If they won’t accept they have a problem, you need to make them understand how their working habits are impacting you and the rest of the family.” 

Of course, ambition is healthy and hard work can play a positive role in our mental health. As always, balance is crucial. “It’s perfectly normal to expect our careers to have ups and downs with periods of high intensity,” says Clark. “But it’s simply not sustainable to try and work at that level all the time. Society will always encourage you to overwork, which makes it hard for you to see you have a problem. But listen to your friends and family. If they tell you there’s a problem, there probably is one.”

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