Sep 20, 2013

Addicted to work: Negative effects on health

Compulsive work addiction and burnout are serious problems with workers, familiar even at the professional level. Work addiction is classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and the prognosis may be very difficult because of the social emphasis about the necessity to work harder to have success. A 24 hour dedication to work destroys the family and surprisingly, in the same way as burnout and stress, the compulsive work addiction leads to a reduction of productivity.

The negative effects of this disorder includes irritability, inability to concentrate, chest pains, anxiety, depression, insomnia, inability to relax, stomach problems, nail biting, lack of sexual desire, etc. The extreme irritation not only affects the workaholic’s personal life, but irritation also may cause troubles with work mates, supervisors, clients, etc. eventually affecting the quality of the addict’s work. Like other addicts, workaholics refuse to recognize their problem and use their homes as part of the workplace.

Since this is a new addiction, there are not many specialists of this topic and there are not many studies either. One of these studies is the one carried out by the California Santa Barbara University. In this study, the authors concluded that more than 31 percent of college-age male workers work more than 50 hours per week. Both in burnouts and work addiction, the affected person is completely identified with the job, although the internal mechanisms underlying the disorder are different. Since work addiction is very similar to other addictions such as alcohol, gambling or sex addiction, therapies normally used in these addictions are being used with workaholics and we must consider that an incorrect equilibrium between work and rest finally results in breakdown, and has important negative consequences on health. Each person shows the stress and tension in different ways, but typical symptoms are incapacity to concentrate, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, lack of appetite, stomach disorders, nail biting, inability to relax, etc.

Due to the lack of experts in this disorder and specific therapies, sometimes getting positive results is hard. However, the first step is to accept family and friend’s help to look for psychiatric or psychological help. It is very important to get help from an expert in work addiction and/or mental health professionals. However, this can be very difficult because work addiction is a relatively new addiction and the only experts that exist are ones in similar, but not exact, fields.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy that focuses on the identification of negative thoughts and patterns and may be very helpful in work addiction treatment. Through this therapy the expert tries to change the negative thoughts related with work, relationships, play and spiritual life. Meetings in Workaholics Anonymous are sometimes recommended, in addition, these groups offer related literature and information.

On the other hand, it has been hypostasized that compulsive work may release specific chemicals in the brain in a similar way to when abused drugs are consumed. When the addict’s brain has become used to these chemicals, the lack of them produce withdrawal symptoms. These chemicals may explain the feeling of illness that the workaholic feels when he or she is not working. These physical problems include cardiovascular diseases, digestive problems, diabetes and mental disorders. However, no studies about this aspect have been carried out. This is a very interesting point to consider in this addiction and may help to develop more efficient therapies.

Written by Dr. Daniel Jimenez and Dr. David Alcantara for The All Results Journals.

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