Work addiction is among behavioral addictions with relatively long history of research and theoretical inquiry.

Compulsive overworking is likely to be present in human societies since ancient times; however, to our knowledge, no systematic studies on this issue are available. The excessive preoccupation with work and productivity, often linked to greed, excessive worry, and anxiety can be arguably traced back at least to 5/6th century B.C


1903 Pierre Janet described “psychasthenia” related to perfectionistic concerns (and resembling something which will be later called obsessive compulsive personality disorder; OCPD), later adopted by Sigmund Freud. Psychasthenics were identified to experience physical problems such as headaches, backaches, or insomnia.

1919 Sándor Ferenci described the so called “Sunday Neurosis“. Symptoms similar to these experienced by psychasthenics and other physical symptoms were observed among some individuals on the days that they were trying to rest from work. This is perhaps the first indication of the withdrawal symptoms related to work addiction in the clinical literature. 

1952 DSM-I (APA 1952, p. 37) included compulsive personality with features such as “an inordinate capacity for work,” and a “lack [of] a normal capacity for relaxation.”

1968/1971 The notion of workaholism/work addiction was introduced in the psychological literature by Wayne Oates.

1970s  As early as in the 1970s workaholic tendencies have been acknowledged in high-profile medical literature.

2013 Excessive work devotion was one of the few criteria of OCPD that have persisted from DSM-III through to the DSM 5 (APA 2013), and is often termed as “workaholism” in the OCPD literature (Grilo et al. 2004).