adult man sitting at work desk talking on the phone

We’ve all heard someone say it, often with a dismissive laugh and a bit of self-deprecation: “I’m a workaholic.” No big deal. Except if you’re one of the estimated 10% of Americans who suffer from workaholism, a real addiction that can wreak havoc on your body just like any other disease. As a result of unfortunate workplace culture, being overworked is often worn as a badge of honor, as if a seventy-hour work week is as victorious as coming home from battle. The reality is that workaholism is much like waging war on your body and your mind, including causing migraine and headaches.

Like other addictions—to cigarettes or alcohol—workaholism works at the physiological level. The body receives a rush of adrenaline, a reward for fulfilling its craving like it would, for example, with sugar. Workaholics receive a hit of satisfaction when they complete a project or create something useful or meaningful, otherwise known as the Builder’s High. But elevated adrenaline over periods of time causes stress. Stress is manifested in many ways, and the oral and maxillofacial areas are no exception. While a Columbia TMJ dentist can’t treat work addiction, Smile Columbia Dentistry can help with the effects of it on your teeth and jaws.

Symptoms of Workaholism

Work addiction, often called workaholism, is a true addiction that can take over people’s lives. People with work addiction can experience numerous problems in their personal lives. Not only that, but work addiction can even interfere with work success, as over-commitment to work can lead people to neglect the soft skills necessary for success in a team environment. Work failures can then lead to disproportionate emotional problems.

Symptoms of work addiction can include:

  • Spending long, often unnecessary hours at work
  • Sacrificing sleep, eating, or exercising to get in more work time
  • Obsession with work-related success
  • Excessive fear of work-related failure
  • Paranoia about performance at work
  • Getting angry or annoyed at coworkers that don’t put in as many hours at work
  • Sacrificing relationships in favor of work
  • Using work as a coping mechanism for crises
  • Giving up other things you enjoy for work

There’s nothing wrong with being devoted to your job and working hard to get ahead. That is until other parts of your life begin to suffer. It’s important to realize that continuing to give your best at your job means balancing work time with other activities that give you time to recharge and monitor your health. In fact, TMJ can be one of the key hints that it’s time to start paying more attention to your health and striving for a more balanced approach to work.

How TMJ Could be Related to Workaholism

One of the early signs of a body reacting or succumbing to stress is stiffness. Tightly crossed legs, clenched fists, even a rigid way of walking. This is because the body, under duress, is constantly contracting—ready for the next obstacle or challenge—and forgets how to relax. Similar to clenched fists, a clenched jaw and teeth-grinding are common symptoms of anxiety and stress and can lead to health issues like temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Headaches, facial pain near the ear or tenderness in the cheek, joint locking, and difficulty chewing can all be caused by stress-related TMJ. Stress is also one of the leading causes of neck pain.

Did Work Stress Follow You Home?

When working in the office, people often imagine that working from home would be relaxing. However, when many people in Columbia, SC, started working from home, they found out that it could be just as stressful, if not more so, than working in the office.

Working from home doesn’t diminish the amount of work you have to do. While people save time by not having to commute into the office, they just see that as more time that they can work. With no set time to stop, workaholics often let themselves work around the clock. The office environment promotes regular breaks, which may be harder to manage from home. Family might see workaholics even less once they start working from home.

The effects of work on your TMJ can be even worse when working from home. At the office, your company might invest in significant support in the form of ergonomic workspaces. At home, you might not have that type of workspace, especially if you prioritize work over comfort.

You might also find that your workplace offers even fewer accommodations for migraines when you’re working from home. They are more likely to accuse you of shirking work and faking when you plead that migraines kept you from accomplishing work goals.

You might try home remedies for headaches, but if they’re unsuccessful, it’s time to seek professional care.

Treatment for TMJ Headaches and Pain in Columbia

While workaholism requires a diagnosis and long-term therapeutic treatment of its own, TMJ and its effects can be treated right away. Like any tense muscle, the facial and jaw muscles can be treated with a massage called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to help them unclench and relax. For some people, that may be all that’s necessary to relieve your symptoms.

But if you find that your jaw tension and headaches persist, we might need another treatment. Orthotics, sometimes called a bite splint, can help hold your jaw in a position of maximum rest, reducing muscle tension, nerve irritation, and headaches. They can also help protect your teeth from excessive wear as you’re trying to get past your workaholism.

If you find that your headaches are severe in Columbia, SC, we can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.