Do You Work Too Much? Here are the Signs

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Working to earn a living is important, but it can sometimes get out of hand. If you find yourself in a place where you’re working non-stop, you likely have a problem on your hands. One of the first steps to addressing this issue is to realize that overworking doesn’t equal success, and just because you’re not busy all the time doesn’t mean you’ll be a failure.

“Many people associate being a workaholic with being successful. In other words, the idea is that the more hours you spend working, the higher the chances of achieving your professional goals and the sense of happiness that supposedly comes with the attainment of such goals. Sadly, the pervasiveness of this concept does not in any way lend a semblance of truth to it,” said career expert Tobias Hansen.

When your work-life balance gets out of whack, it’s time to figure out how to return to a state of equilibrium. But how do you know if you’re working too much? Here are some signs you may be addicted to work.

You never stop working

Being a workaholic is more than just working hard, it is an obsession with staying busy around the clock. When work comes before everything on your list—even your health and your family—this may point to a deeper problem. You’ll know something is wrong when your family complains they never see you, you usually work straight through the weekend, and your obsession with work is starting cause you to have trouble sleeping. You can never seem to unwind.

“If you love to stay on task and get projects complete, you are simply a highly-motivated hard worker. The difference is literally like night and day. A true workaholic can literally work themselves to death,” said therapist Lisa Scott.

Being away from work fills you with anxiety

Do you break out in a cold sweat when you’re unable to be at the office or do any work in your spare time? Are you constantly checking messages from work every chance you get? It’s a red flag if you feel an uncontrollable urge to be at work and being unable to work fills you with dread. Psychotherapist Bryan E. Robinson says many workaholics are open about their need to overwork and often paint their behavior in a positive light, but what their co-workers and family may not know is these workers are living lives filled with anxiety, illness, and extreme fatigue:

If you’re a workaholic, chances are you openly admit your obsession with work while concealing the darker side of the addiction. Perhaps you testify to your passion for work, your nonstop schedule—all of which present you in a favorable light. But you fail to mention your episodes of depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and stress-related illnesses—consequences of working obsessively for days on end.

Work fills a void

Stressed business man in front of a laptop

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Working to distract yourself when you feel unpleasant emotions may eventually tempt you to use work as a crutch. This behavior could cause you to use busyness as a means to numb your emotional pain or take your mind off of a life that hasn’t met your expectations. While it’s natural to have a desire to replace what is missing in your life or your relationships, it’s important to develop interests outside your career so you can live a balanced and fulfilling life. If work is the number one activity you like to do best and talk about the most, Workaholics Anonymous warns this may be a sign of workaholism. This factor alone doesn’t always mean you are a workaholic, but when other behaviors are taken into consideration, it could strongly signal an underlying issue with work.

Your work schedule is making you physically ill

Many workaholics do not realize the damage they’re doing to their bodies until they become sick. If you’re working so hard that your body is paying the price, it’s time to scale back. Dr. Frank O’Neill recounted the moment he began to realize his work habits were gradually killing him:

“I had become a slave to my work, and I was tired, hurt, and mad. When I was not busy seeing patients, I was doing paperwork or scrubbing toilets. I was working too much, but it was paying off…Looking at it from the outside, I was a huge success. The only problem is that I was dying on the inside…I had promised myself that I would work tirelessly for two or three years, and then be able to slow down and coast. Two or three years quickly turned into six or seven…My body also failed me…I went from running six miles a day in 2003 to struggling to climb out of bed in the morning in 2006.”

You feel out of control

If your desire to work is getting to a point where it is interfering with all aspects of your life, it is important for you to get help. One organization that offers assistance to over-workers is Workaholics Anonymous. This program, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, incorporates a 12-step recovery plan. The website features an online assessment that can help you get more insight into whether you may have a work addiction.

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