workaholic symptoms: how to know when you've crossed the line

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Working under these conditions can be considered the mark of an ambitious person who wants to build a great career. But, when someone with personality traits that predispose them to workaholism finds themselves in an overwork situation, the extreme focus on work can slide into addiction.

written bySenior Marketing Manager, EPAM Anywhere

The modern world offers the perfect conditions to foster workaholism symptoms. Bonuses for extra achievements, overtime payments, and the potential for fast career growth pressure people to spend more time at work. The availability of email and messengers on every device enables people prone to participating in work-related discussions to do so around the clock. In addition, the almost total switch to work-from-home culture easily blurs the line between work and life.

Working under these conditions can be considered the mark of an ambitious person who wants to build a great career. But, when someone with personality traits that predispose them to workaholism finds themselves in an overwork situation, the extreme focus on work can slide into addiction.

While it’s easy to confuse a workaholic with an ambitious worker, there are differences. The workaholic lifestyle is unhealthy, workaholics tend not to find their work satisfying, and workaholism is not correlated with better work performance. It might seem that work-addicted people do everything to succeed at work but, in reality, they can end up unproductive, stressed, and unable to handle the workload they took on.

If you feel that your work-life balance has shifted towards work and you think you might have the signs of a workaholic, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we list workaholism symptoms, offer a simple way to identify them, and share suggestions on how to address signs of work addiction.

Workaholism symptoms: what are they?

The problem of excessive work commitment has been recognized since the early 1970s, and there is some agreement about its components . Here are some key workaholic symptoms and trends that can be readily identified.

1. You often work more than planned or expected

Of course, there are times when it’s necessary to work overtime - you might want to take up new challenges, grow your career, or make a client happy. And that’s okay. After all, we're professionals who need to do what it takes to achieve ambitious results. If you feel like overtiming has taken over your life, and you’re not comfortable with that, it might be a “red flag” alerting you to an unhealthy work commitment, which can be a cause of stress and, in extreme cases, lead to burnout.

2. You always tend to work to forget about troubles in other spheres of life

Workaholics put their job in the first, and often only, place in their life. Working tasks serve as hobbies, fun, and even therapy. If workaholics experience any troubles outside office walls, they work to shift the focus and forget about what is troubling them at the moment.

3. Your working schedule leads to relationship and health issues

If your partner, family, or friends accuse you of spending too little time with them, say that your work is more important than they are, and blame your work - and you - for ruining your relationships, you may be experiencing workaholism symptoms. If you also suffer from headaches, fatigue, forgetfulness, insomnia, and other health conditions, it’s time to reconsider your attitude toward work.

4. You don’t admit your addiction

Yes, you’ve read that right. Working too much is an addiction, and the inability to recognize it may be the worst of the workaholics symptoms. If people don’t see a problem, they can’t solve it. If the people around you never miss an opportunity to tell you that you work TOO much, if you work for the sake of work, if you work more than your employer expects, or don’t have a work-life balance - you might want to check in with yourself, maybe you actually have signs of a workaholic?

These are some of the general characteristics of workaholics. Is it possible to recognize the signs you're a workaholic on your own? The answer is yes, and we explain in the next section.

Check yourself: Do you show the signs of a workaholic?

Checking in with yourself can be quite simple. To see if you are exhibiting the signs of a workaholic, answer a few direct questions. When answering the questions below, use one of five responses: “never”, “rarely”, “sometimes”, “often”, and “always”.

Remember, if you want to know the truth, you should answer honestly. Here are the questions:

  • Do you stay late at work?
  • Do you sacrifice your free time and hobbies to finish work-related tasks?
  • Do you think about work when you are not working?
  • Does your work schedule interfere with your relationships with your friends and family?
  • Do you feel uneasy when you don’t work?
  • Do people around say you show signs you’re a workaholic?

If at least four of your answers are “often” and/or “always”, you’re more than an ambitious employee, you may be a workaholic.