Work Addiction and General Adaptation Syndrome: What is the link?

People use the word workaholic casually to describe people who can’t seem to stop working. Since workaholics are valued in our culture, and we live in a world where money matters, we sometimes praise them.

But workaholism is a pricey behavioral addiction. Despite not being regarded as a mental disorder by psychologists, workaholism is a psychological addiction that destroys relationships, and mental and physical health. The consequences can be destructive.

Working long hours or multiple jobs does not make you a workaholic. A working addict is someone who behaves like an addict when they aren’t working. It’s not uncommon for them to be restless, irritable, or even depressed when they don’t work.

What are the causes of compulsive overworking?

An individual may become addicted to work because of several factors.

Their work may be an escape. They may have personal relationship problems at home, or they don’t get “enough” from life. Thus, they use work to escape these feelings.

Workaholics may have an unreasonable need for power. They may oversee and dominate their employees. But the problem is that that behavior gives them a false sense of worth and importance. Even worse, such behavior results in isolation at the workplace leading to even more work.

Another reason is completing tasks or organizing time is a compulsive need. Vacations can be uncomfortable or guilt-inducing for these workaholics. It is important to be productive at all times. They feel that they can gain comfort and value only through work.

Last but not least, workaholics may use work to fill a void. People without a spiritual component are especially prone to these issues. Through workaholic behavior, these people often avoid questioning the meaning of their lives.

Work addiction and General Adaptation Syndrome

Workaholics are more likely to develop an illness called General Adaptation Syndrome. High levels of stress create this syndrome.

The alarm stage occurs at the beginning of the process, in which the body mobilizes its resources to deal with the stressor. Resistance is the second stage, where the body adapts to stress. Exhaustion is the third stage when the body cannot handle the stress anymore due to depleted resources.

The final stage is exhaustion. People at this stage often suffer from severe physical and mental health conditions such as infections, cancer, heart disease, and extreme fatigue.

What are the typical work addiction withdrawal symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms are the physical and psychological signs that occur when a person suddenly stops using a substance or engaging in an activity to which they have become addicted. Work addiction is no different, and those who try to break the habit may find themselves experiencing a range of uncomfortable symptoms as their bodies adjust to functioning without the constant stimulus of work.

Some of work addiction’s most common withdrawal symptoms are anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and depression. These symptoms can make it hard to stick to a work-free lifestyle, but luckily, many resources are available to help people through the complex recovery process. Overcoming work addiction and living a healthy, balanced life is possible with time and effort.

What are the treatment options to recover from work addiction?

Firstly, you need to slow down. If you are obsessed with achievement, take steps to stop it. I recommend exercise to release nervous energy or meditation and reflection to calm yourself. For me, for example, boxing works the best.

Think about why you work without limits. Are you addicted to power in an unhealthy way? Do you feel inadequate in your personal life? Do you feel unworthy unless you work? You might find it helpful to talk to a therapist about these issues.

Another thing to consider is limiting your commitments. Learn to say no when you’re too busy. Do you take on extra tasks to please others?

As a final tip, I encourage you to enjoy passive experiences. Many workaholics only find pleasure when working on something active such as cleaning or working in the garden. Instead, I suggest you enjoy something passive. It’s okay to listen to soothing music, watch your child play, or pet your dog.


Higuera V. What Is General Adaptation Syndrome? Healthline. Published May 2017. Accessed September 20, 2022.

Andreassen, C. S., Griffiths, M. D., Hetland, J., & Pallesen, S. (2012). Development of a work addiction scale. Scandinavian journal of psychology, 53(3), 265-272.