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Workaholism : A Different Form of Addiction

Sometimes the person who needs the most help with an addiction is one in the same as the person who may clock extra hours at work. That’s because compulsive behaviors—whether linked to a substance or habit—are considered to be an addiction.

“The physiological things that happen to your brain as a workaholic are very similar to the physiology of substance, or drug, abuse,” says Link Christin, executive director of the legal professionals program at Caron Treatment Centers.

“They are both addictions,” notes Christin, “and as addictions, they are compulsive behaviors you can’t stop and that eventually have bad and negative consequences.”

Addictions, whether it’s working nonstop or substance use, not only impact vital organs like your heart and liver, they also affect your brain chemistry and impact your ability to make decisions.

Although considered to be a newer form of addiction, workaholism can be just as dangerous as substance use. While substance use addiction is linked specifically to a substance like alcohol or drugs being taken compulsively. A process addiction, like workaholism, is often more complexly linked to being compelled to perform certain behaviors over and over.

“This isn’t like ‘oh, I have a big project and I have to take two weeks to disappear,’ most jobs have that heightened responsibility,” says Christin. “[Workaholism] is a consistent level of being at work longer and longer.”

Process addictions usually lead to people having multiple addictions that need to be addressed at the same time. Multiple addictions often interact and reinforce one another. Treating them in tandem is essential for preventing progression and relapse. That’s where integrated treatment plans, like those offered at Caron Treatment Centers, are vital for long-term recovery. The team at Caron has a proven track record of treating people with multiple addictions as well as working with families to help them better understand their loved ones’ daily challenges.

“Those people [with workaholism] at some point, often before they get to Caron, realize their addiction has a real danger…. And the way they realize that is very much like alcoholics who are high-functioning realize that–and that is because of the consequences [personally or professionally].”

Regardless of the form it takes, addiction is a disease, and once someone is affected they may start to try to conceal their behavior despite its negative consequences. Many times various forms of addiction can influence each other–one addiction may cause the other, one might interact with the other.

In fact, many addicts who are active alcoholics or drug addicts are what experts call “high-functioning addicts,” meaning even though they have the disease and they can’t stop using or drinking there appears to be a perfect balance. A person with a high-functioning addiction is typically able to keep their addiction a secret from other people by putting most of their energy into work.

Although their work may be intact, what’s really happening is a concealing of their disease to those around them as well as themselves.

A team of medical professionals, like therapists knowledgeable in dealing with multiple addictions and doctors who can aid in helping with withdrawal systems with medical-assisted treatment, create a clear path toward sobriety. At Caron, experts are available under one roof in a comfortable residential setting.

“Optimally, I think if your addiction is causing trouble in your life, the optimal level of care as a clinician is residential–that really pulls you out of your addiction,” says Christin. “A residential place can work on your underlying issues with privacy and confidentiality in order to get to the root of your issues.”


If you or a loved one is clocking too many hours at the office, don’t wait to ask for help. For more information on taking the next steps toward recovery, visit Caron.org. Caron now accepts Independence Blue Cross insurance at their Philadelphia campus.