Ask Dr. Tim: “May I be addicted to my work?”

Ask Dr. Tim: “May I be addicted to my work?”


I am a 56-year-old realtor. I have been through one marriage and am in trouble with my second. In both marriages my spouses have accused me of having an affair. It is untrue…maybe. Because I am so “disengaged” and spend most of my “free time” working, perhaps my work has become my “lover”. The fact is that I think I may be addicted to my work. Is that even possible?



Dear Angus,

I of course do not know any more about your situation than you have revealed.  So, taking what you have said, yes there is a possibility that you could be addicted to your work. You will wish to apply the two primary measurements (there are others) of an addiction to your situation.

#1. Increased tolerance: Does it take more exposure to the “substance” of addiction (e.g., alcohol, drugs, food, exercise) to give you the same “high”? Otherwise, do you keep working more and more?

#2. Withdrawal symptoms: Do you have a negative reaction to cutting back or stopping the substance/behavior (physical or psychological)? Otherwise, do you get anxious and/or angry when you are not working?

So it may be helpful for you determine if addiction is the primary driver here, or if something else is happening. For example:

#1. You may have made poor selections in mates and are responding by avoiding them.

#2. Perhaps you are afraid of intimacy and responding by avoidance.

#3. Perhaps you had a traumatic experience in your career when the economy plunged and you are afraid of being powerless and out of control again.

#4. Or, perhaps you were raised with a very strong and brittle work ethic and believe “working hard” is your way of showing love to your mate, as “the provider”.

As you can see there are often no easy answers. But kudos to you. Most people would just “blow off” the complaints as a “problem with her”. It sounds like you have not fallen into that trap. Keep looking because you may just find some gold!

Dr. Tim

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