Americans place great value on productivity and efficiency in the workplace. The culture also tends to shun leisure time in favor of working harder and faster to buy more material goods. The average employee in the United States gets around four weeks of time off every year and Europeans receive twice the amount. Even on vacation, Americans tend to work whereas the European counterparts do not. Chronic stress disrupts the balance between work and personal life. Find out why this may be a public health crisis and how a person’s place of employment may fuel addictive behavior.

What is Stress?

Stress is a survival mechanism in response to the environment. When faced with real or imagined danger, the body system prepares for fight or flight. When a person chooses to fight or flee to save oneself, the body releases powerful hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The chemicals change things inside the body including:

  • Faster breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased physical strength
  • Sweating
  • Heightened alertness

When a person is at rest and slows down, it helps a person rest and eat more healthily than when under chronic stress. This may cause problems with digestions, metabolism, fertility and immunity. People who are tense and anxious tend to get sick more often, have trouble getting pregnant and suffer from other health problems.

Health Risks of Stress

The psychological consequences of stress including irritability, depression, anxiety, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. The consequences affect all body systems which may contribute to chronic pain and stress. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) qualifies stress as an occupational hazard which increases the risk of the number of serious health problems including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Migraines
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders

Work-related stress has also been linked to an increased risk of substance abuse. Smoking, drinking and using drugs are common coping mechanisms among workers under constant pressure. This form of self-medication only adds to the damage done to a person’s body and mind. Substance abuse creates strain on personal relationships, breaks up marriages, families and friendships. Stress management is part of an effective addiction recovery program which must replace behaviors with positive, sober activities to nourish body and spirit.

Self-Medication Trap

Compulsive work is a common practice in the US which creates work-related stress. It is hard to break away and have time alone away from work. Casual use of alcohol or drugs can turn into addiction rather quickly to cope with stress and anxiety. Occupational stress can worsen over time and lead to poor job performance, disciplinary action and employment issues. The result is a self-perpetuating cycle of stress and addiction with occupational pressures and substance abuse cycling around and around.

Finding a healthy work-life balance can lead to healthier lifestyle choices which lead away from drug or alcohol use to self-medicate for stress and more positive coping mechanisms.


Hired Power provides personal recovery assistants, safe passage transport and others services to help individuals with addiction. If you need help, call us at 800-910-9299 to find out how we can support you.

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