Cortney’s work addiction story

“I didn’t think the 70- to 80-hour workweeks were a problem until I realized I had literally no life outside of work,” explains Cortney Edmondson. “The times I did spend with friends were mostly spent binge drinking to gain some temporary relief/dissociation,” she adds.

Within the first three years of working in a super competitive career, Edmondson had developed severe insomnia. She was only sleeping about eight hours a week — most of those hours on Fridays as soon as she got off work.

She believes she found herself unfulfilled and burnt out ultimately because she was trying to prove to herself that she was enough.

As a result, Edmondson found herself chasing unrealistic goals, and then discovering that when she met the goal or deadline, it was only a temporary fix.

If Edmondson’s story sounds familiar, it may be time to take inventory of your work habits and how they affect your life.

How to know if you’re a workaholic

Even though the term “workaholic” has been watered down, work addiction, or workaholism, is a real condition. People with this mental health condition are unable to stop putting in unnecessarily long hours at the office or obsessing over their work performance.

While workaholics may use overwork as an escape from personal problems, workaholism can also damage relationships and physical and mental health. Work addiction is more common in women and people who describe themselves as perfectionists. According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD, if you or your loved ones feel that work is consuming your life, it’s likely that you’re on the workaholism spectrum.

Being able to identify the signs of work addiction is critical if you want to take the initial steps to make changes.

While there are many ways workaholism develops, there are a few clear signs to be aware of:

You routinely take work home with you.

You often stay late at the office.

You continually check email or texts while at home.

Additionally, Manly says that if time with family, exercise, healthy eating, or your social life begin to suffer as a result of a packed work schedule, it’s likely that you have some workaholic tendencies. You can find additional symptoms here.

Researchers interested in finding out more about work addiction developed an instrument that measures the degree of workaholism: the Bergen Work Addiction Scale. It looks at seven basic criteria to identify work addiction:

  • You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  • You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  • You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
  • You’ve been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  • You become stressed if you’re prohibited from working.
  • You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
  • You work so much that it has hurt your health.

Answering “often” or “always” to at least four of these seven statements may suggest that you have work addiction.