Work Pressure and Addiction - Is Burnout To Blame?
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Author: CornerstoneSoCal
Published: October 12, 2021

Even if you consider yourself in a dream job, work stress can accumulate and become a major cause of anxiety and worry. Stress affects us all differently, but it almost always has a negative effect on our emotional and physical well-being. How we manage this stress is key to whether we get it under control, or instead, how it progresses into something bigger and more problematic.

Given that we spend such a large proportion of our lives at work, people often look to quick stress relievers when they aren’t in the office. In addition, now that many of us are working remotely, the switch between work and home life is difficult, and we may feel the need to turn to a substance to make that transition or to turn off the work brain.

There are, of course, many healthy outlets for relieving stress and compartmentalizing your day - a long run after clocking out or spending the evening with friends or loved ones. However, when these things aren’t available or no longer achieve the desired result, individuals may feel compelled to look elsewhere.

Stress Exists in All Industries

We may have an idea of which jobs traditionally cause stress, but workplace stress is not exclusive to any industry. Any role can lead to extreme stress and bearing the brunt of unreasonable demands from management, customers, or the general public, and feeling stuck in a position where you don’t have a say in how the company operates can lead to feelings of powerlessness. Additionally, the instability of contracts in some industries can contribute to huge amounts of stress around financial security.

What’s the Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health?

While stress affects everybody, if somebody is already suffering from a mental health condition, the impact of a sudden spike in stress at work or a case of burnout can cause their condition to progress to a level that is no longer manageable.

In our current working culture, burnout is becoming increasingly normal. Work hours are getting longer, and time for rest and relaxation is becoming more scarce. It is common for people to push past the warning signs of burnout until it has become a severe issue and requires professional support. There are many aspects that can result in a sense of denial from the sufferer, although from an outside perspective, it may be obvious. Loved ones and colleagues may even be advising taking a break or reducing workload but taking this advice may be difficult, especially if your self-worth depends on your work ethic.

Substance Use After Work

If you are turning to alcohol or drugs to relieve the pressure of work stress, it can quickly spiral out of control. Whether somebody is using cocaine to feel more confident in work situations, stimulants like Ritalin to help them concentrate or using alcohol or opioids to help them relax after a stressful day, using a substance to cope should ring alarm bells. How, what, and when people use substances may vary vastly, but the negative implications and impacts are the same.

Do Stressful Jobs Encourage Addiction?

Certain industries and work cultures can increase the likelihood of alcohol or drug abuse. Employees may feel that in order to fit in with their colleagues, they have to partake in substance use to be accepted and to match the perceived productivity of the office or workplace. For example, some jobs in the financial industry are correlated with cocaine abuse merely as a means to cope with the long and stressful days. Other industries such as hospitality and construction, which have fluctuating work patterns and often unsocial work hours, are linked to alcohol abuse.

People may feel that substance use will enable them to cope with work-related stress and diminish their problems. In reality, it increases problems; mentally, physically, and socially.

Avoiding Substance Abuse at Work

Claiming that your substance use is under control and you don’t need help is a common part of addiction. The first and often most challenging part of recovery is overcoming your denial about the issue. Once you have accepted it and admitted to yourself and those who care about you that you need help, you can begin the journey to sobriety. Learning how to manage the stress of your job healthily and being honest with yourself about personal happiness, and setting boundaries will follow.

Looking inwards to find or remember the things that gave you fulfillment and joy will help you achieve the sustainable recovery you are looking for. These sources of happiness, unlike substances, are unending.

Respecting your body and mind can be one of the biggest and most beneficial steps in your recovery journey. When you prioritize your mental well-being, you’ll see it not only benefits your recovery but your performance at work.