Diagnosis and Treatment of Work Addiction

Work Addiction

Work addiction is a form of behavioural addiction. It is characterised by an excessive need to work, which leads to negative consequences for physical health, interpersonal relationships, personal well-being and the ability to fulfil social roles.

Symptoms of Work Addiction

Someone who is suffering from work addiction is no longer able to relax and regenerate. Work addicts significantly restrict or completely give up social activities. They find it (almost) impossible to work in moderation and to abstain temporarily from working.

The first symptoms of work addiction become apparent when a person continues to work excessively despite the difficulties this creates in many other areas of life. As well as physical illnesses that are tied to stress, work addiction leads to mental health problems such as an inability to function socially, depression, anxiety, burnout, relationship problems and increasing isolation, which as a reaction to excessive work can in turn reinforce the disease.
For people with a work addiction, work becomes the main preoccupation in life. They lose interest in all other activities and pursuits such as relationships with family and friends or hobbies. They no longer work to live but live to work.

Studies on differences between the sexes in relation to work addiction have not shown an increased risk for either men or women to become work addicts - both have a similar risk.

Treatment of Work Addiction

The first crucial step in the treatment of work addiction is to establish the stage of the illness. The treatment itself is guided by the particular symptoms of work addiction that are present. In addition, co-occurring mental illnesses suffered by the patient, such as a burn-out process, and the consequences are also dealt with.

Before treating a work addiction, a specific treatment goal must be agreed between the doctors and the patient.

No longer working is not the goal. Instead we seek to analyse the value of work in the individual’s life and to reformulate their priorities.

Such therapeutic work can involve building self-esteem that is not based on work performance and working on other personality-based factors. Therapy can also focus on establishing specific times for work and for leisure activities. Special importance is given to the attractiveness of the individual’s goals and wishes and the belief in their implementation.

The decision regarding the need for a lengthy period of residential treatment is based on the severity of the work addiction and any co-occurring mental health issues, such as late-stage burnout, or other serious mental or physical disorders or social impairments. Residential treatment should always be followed by long-term, non-residential follow-up care.