Treatment for work addiction may involve therapy, medication, or a combination of the two. A life-work balance is possible in recovery from work addiction.
For a person with work addiction, the idea of work addiction treatment may seem impossible. Nearly everybody must work in some capacity to sustain their lifestyle. Considering reducing how much work is done may cause a person to feel as if their lifestyle is being threatened. It is possible to learn how to stop overworking. Reducing overworking does not mean a person will completely stop working, nor does it mean they will fail to fulfill their work duties. Instead, work addiction treatment will help to restore the life-work balance.
Therapy for Work Addiction
Most individuals struggling with work addiction are unlikely to believe that therapy could be beneficial. However, work addiction therapy is effective. Many of the approaches used for work addiction treatment are like those used for treating substance use disorders.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach that focuses on the relationship between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. CBT theorizes that if a person changes their thoughts and behaviors, their feelings will change to match their new beliefs and actions. For example, a person with work addiction may equate overworking with self-worth. This person may hold a belief such as “I am only worth what I can produce.” Working with a CBT trained therapist, this person can learn to modify this belief to create a new, effective belief such as “I am a valuable employee and do not need to prove that through overworking.” By shifting the belief and taking steps to change actions a person may be able to feel less distress about their self-worth if they do not overwork.
Motivational interviewing (MI) is an approach based on recognizing discrepancies between what a person wants and what a person is doing. Once these discrepancies are identified, motivation to make changes is encouraged. For example, if a person states they would like more work-life balance but is consistently overworking, motivation to reduce overworking will be encouraged. Once motivation is increased a person is more likely to follow through with a change plan.
Positive psychology is based on enhancing strengths to assist individuals to increase their wellbeing. In the context of work addiction, positive psychology is based on the belief that a negative view of self is the cause of overworking. By focusing on positive characteristics and building upon existing strengths, a therapist can help an individual with work addiction increase their self-esteem. This approach is based on the theory that increasing self-esteem will decrease the need to overwork.
Medication for Work Addiction
For some people with work addiction, the need to overwork stems from other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. In the case of depression, a person may feel worthless or inferior. In an attempt to prove one’s worth, a person may overwork themselves to gain approval and recognition. For a person with anxiety, the fear of being viewed as lazy, getting fired, or not properly completing work may fuel work addiction. In these cases where work addiction stems from another disorder, medication may be a helpful addition to treatment. While anti-anxiety medication may be effective it should be considered carefully as many anti-anxiety medications are highly addictive. Most antidepressants have anti-anxiety properties as well making them a good option for work addiction treatment. Some common antidepressants used for people with work addiction include Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, and Prozac.
Alternative Strategies for Coping with Work-Related Stress
In addition to therapy, successful treatment for work addiction may include learning to manage stress. Developing coping strategies for work-related stress can decrease the psychological urge to overwork. Some suggested strategies include:
- Set Realistic Goals: First, identify what needs to be done to complete a project and set goals based on that. Step away from perfectionistic goals.
- Work on Time Management: Create a schedule including how long you will work on certain tasks and stick to it. If a task is completed and time is up, do not continue to obsess over it.
- Establish Work-Life Balance: Engage in self-care activities outside of work. Begin a new hobby, dedicate time to spend with loved ones, and ensure you are eating properly.
- Be Deliberate About Boundaries: Instead of automatically saying yes to every request, be clear about what your role is and do not take on extra tasks that are not within your job description especially if you do not have spare time. You do not have to refuse to help co-workers but ensure you are not taking on more than you can handle.
- Speak to Your Manager: Discuss your role, what tasks you should be completing, and the priority level of different tasks. Get clear guidelines on what is expected of you.
- Change Your Mindset: Change your concept of what creates a valuable employee or what makes you a valuable person. Redefine success for yourself and let go of unrealistic expectations.
Work Addiction Support Groups
Like other 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, is a peer support group. These meetings provide support to individuals with work addiction. Utilizing the 12-step framework the underlying causes and negative outcomes of work addiction are uncovered as a person learns tools to live a more balanced life.
Treating Work Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders
Work addiction is likely to co-occur with other mental health disorders. Some researchers have even suggested that work addiction could be a sub-type of obsessive-compulsive disorder. The most common co-occurring disorders include depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder. No matter the co-occurring disorder, both disorders should be treated concurrently. Medication management may be particularly helpful in treating co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. In cases of co-occurring substance use, work addiction treatment may need to focus more broadly on addiction. It is common for individuals struggling with addiction to have addiction manifest in various forms. Addressing the root of the addiction and creating a sustainable recovery plan can assist in finding relief from substance use and work addiction.
If you are having trouble in your life because of work addiction or another addiction, contact a representative at The Recovery Village today for more information on programs available. Recovery is possible and the professionals at The Recovery Village are here to help.
Freimuth, Marilyn, et al. “Expanding the Scope of Dual Diagnosis an[…]havioral Addictions.” Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, December 12, 2008. Accessed April 16, 2019.
Quinones, C., & Griffiths, M. D. “Addiction to Work: A Critical Review of the Workaholism Construct and Recommendations for Assessment.” Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, October 10, 2015. Accessed April 16, 2019.
Sussman, Steve. “Workaholism: A Review.” Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, January 10, 2012. Accessed April 16, 2019.
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