How to Overcome Addiction to Success and Stress

In today’s busy societies, everything is fast. Work, love, money: we all crave the objects of success. We tend to put our careers first and define our identity toward goals and achievements. High-achievers — or type A personalities — put their priorities high as far as success is concerned, resulting in stressful events or situations that may damage their health. In fact, there’s an addiction to success and to overachieving. But like any addiction, this pattern may have deep consequences that need to be addressed sooner or later. Why addiction to success should be cured? And How? Let’s find out. 

What is addictive behavior?

Addiction is today regarded as a chronic mental health problem by medical professionals around the world. Although we find many styles of addictions — often linked to substance and alcohol abuse — there are also lesser-known addictive behaviors such as the race to success.

Addictive behavior has roots within childhood and the unconscious mind. People with obsessive thinking, addiction to success, and other “extreme” patterns may subconsciously look for adrenaline activities. In fact, research has shown that addiction is a response from the brain toward a belief stored in our subconscious.

What are examples of addictive patterns?

  • The desire to be seen as an achiever: results matter as much as goals. They define the person’s life who puts a lot of pressure toward his or her own to never “lose”.
  • Perfectionism: linked to the above, people dependant on success seek the “zero-mistake” path. Everything must flow their way and they rarely compromise.
  • Coping with activity and never rest: as their minds focus on specific goals in life or at work, success addicts can’t rest unless they have to. They keep themselves busy without contemplating their inner self.
  • Fear of missing out: success-driven individuals have a willingness to accomplish and to be in control. They can’t let go and embrace the moment. If they let go, they may fill empty or threatened and will return to their known addictive behavior.
  • Stress and other diseases: addiction and stress work in pairs. An addictive behavior will eventually result in stress since it’s “never enough”: there’s always more to do and more to achieve. The spiral of addiction never ends.
  • Withdrawal from social activities or relationships: addiction to success is selfish. It requires an urgent need to be satisfied which cannot accommodate compassion and love toward self or others, or with difficulty.

Why do successful people tend to be addicted?

Successful people (in their jobs or personal lives) often thrive in a frenzy, risky environment. They are most of them regarded as charismatic personalities with bright minds and enjoy the rewards from endorphins. A study found that successful people often had issues in childhood, bringing about a drive toward success and steering away from trauma. To clear trauma or remove the old beliefs that are stored in the subconscious mind, successful people hide behind their success — and seek more of it to the point of getting ill. 

In the end, high-achievers may develop addictive behaviors. They are looking for more adrenaline driven activities, are restless, can’t stop from achieving. As seen as people with confidence or self-assured individuals, success seekers may feel stressed and are often reluctant to seek help. The compulsive need for success and work can ultimately drain an individual out as addiction creates fears, burnouts, and stress — which may eventually trigger other diseases such as PTSD or depression. 

Stressful events may be seen as tension-drivers at first that offer an alley for high-achievers to over-perform but there’s a price to pay: mental fatigue, feeling disconnected, weight loss, or sleep deprivation can occur in the life of success addicts. The coping strategies can be denial — “there’s nothing wrong with me” — substance or medication abuse — “I can self-medicate and take care of myself alone”, or ultimately deal with mental problems that can worsen over time. 

What is the best therapy to cope with stress and addiction to success?

Like with many addictions, various solutions exist to prevent the road of success to become an addictive behavior that may cause stress. In specific, the combination of these tools can bring positive results in fighting against addiction:

  • Gardening, cooking, and relaxing activities: high-performers, success addicts and other individuals who put their life in stressful events can benefit from slowing down their minds. By slowing down the mind with relaxing activities that require a shift away from their habits, success-driven people can refocus on themselves. New ideas open up and stress may leave.
  • Indulging in a routine away from stress: the routine can include a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle that may require some life adjustments. It’s hard to change from addictive behavior to a more grounded, healthier routine. But it eventually pays off: try on to speak to a dietician to discover the best food for your body and never underestimate the power of good night sleep.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy: for individuals who have reached a point where their relationships with themselves and others are at risk, and if they present symptoms of addictive behaviors, it’s best to initiate a program with a coach. The therapy will consist of a discussion and exercises that will alleviate past trauma and provides new patterns or beliefs to ultimately dispose of the addiction.
  • Meditation: we all know the great benefits of meditation. And even for self-starters, starting meditative practices on a daily basis can have a deep, long-lasting effect on addictions and stress. For instance, practicing only 10-min a day as a start has positive effects. Don’t confuse meditation with “sleeping”. If you are new to meditation, discover one of the powerful, accessible sessions created by our health professionals.

Addiction is a condition. And addiction to success can quickly have negative impacts on our physical and emotional well-being;  Like any condition, we need to acknowledge the roots of the issue. Finding the right cure is always within our reach as long as we have the desire to heal and grow. 


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