Few things are perhaps as American as the idea of hard work being necessary for a virtuous life. Workaholism (also called ergomania) is a condition too many of us are just too happy to be associated with.
But, as you might have guessed, excessive devotion to work can be a major red flag. While not currently recognized as a condition in itself, ergomania is now understood to be linked to a variety of mental illnesses, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, anxiety disorder, impulsive control disorder, to name a few.
Of these mental health conditions, most are linked to substance use disorder (SUD) and other maladaptive behaviors.
Here are some reasons workaholics may start misusing drugs or alcohol. If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, check out this resource on drug rehabs Boston SUD specialists trust:
1.) They have difficulty unwinding
The “work hard, play hard” archetype rings true for many people. Workaholics tend to accumulate high levels of stress hormones over the day, and these remain in their system even during their downtime. This can lead to restlessness and anxiety, which can often trigger alcohol and drug use in an effort to wind down.
Alcohol and tranquilizers like benzodiazepines can provide much-needed relief at the end of a long day. However, these and other habit-forming substances can become a serious problem when repeatedly used, as might happen if every day is stressful. This way, ergomania may indirectly lead to an SUD.
2.) They lack sleep
Workaholics may find it difficult to get enough sleep. This may lead to them misusing sedative drugs and alcohol but could also lead to the misuse of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines to compensate for their low energy from not having enough sleep. The lack of sleep can also cause problems with emotional and impulse regulation, making it more likely that they may continue to misuse drugs.
3.) They feel compelled to do more
Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders will often cause people to do more work than would be considered healthy. They may turn to stimulant drugs in an effort to be even more productive. Additionally, they may feel that it’s impossible for them to work without the aid of certain substances.
Recently, the use of hallucinogens has seen a resurgence in tech and entrepreneurship circles as a way to boost creativity. While there is plenty of literature extolling the legitimate benefits, comparatively less attention has been given to the serious drawbacks.
Is workaholism the same as working long hours?
While the two ideas are related, they are not exactly the same. According to Harvard Business Review, workaholics are constantly anxious and think about work and find it hard or impossible to “turn off”. This doesn’t necessarily involve them working long hours, though it often does. By contrast, other people are able to derive immense satisfaction from their job, even after long hours at work. They can mentally shut off work and suffer no anxiety.
In addition to working excessive hours (over 50 hours a week), signs of ergomania include:
- Bringing work to inappropriate settings, like social functions
- Bringing work home daily or close to daily
- Insisting on working while ill
- More concerned with appearing to work than delivering goals in an effective way
- Giving up hobbies to work
- Skipping meals or constantly eating at one’s desk
- Using substances to facilitate more work
There is some evidence that actually loving your job can go a long way into mitigating the worst mental health effects of being a workaholic. This may explain why some entrepreneurs are completely fine working 80 hour weeks, as they are pursuing their own ambitions. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t a realistic option for many people who may turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
SUD Recovery and Workaholism
Workaholics who want to recover from SUD will find a number of unique challenges ahead of them. Chances are that they may have a co-occurring mental health condition or a work environment that will continue to be present after they complete a rehab program.
This means that, if they want to achieve good long-term outcomes, they may want to have to find a program that also treats co-occurring mental health conditions. Additionally, they may want to reconsider their work situation.
Also, if they continue with the same job, they may need to delegate responsibilities, commit to working fewer hours, or find an enjoyable past-time that helps them unwind. This will allow recovering individuals to not only avoid falling into the trap of overworking, but also give them more time for therapy and to engage in activities that aid in recovery.
Of course, this is easier said than done, especially by one’s self. SUD and workaholism are conditions that destroy one’s will to do the right thing. This makes it important to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional to achieve the best possible recovery outcomes.