addicted to school

Study Addiction – Workaholism’s Cousin

Study Addiction – Workaholism’s Cousin
When a “good” habit goes too far, it’s time to react
By Mike Saxton, PhD

In an earlier article on the Goodwin University blog entitled “Workaholism: The Silent Killer,” I examined the threat workaholism poses to workers and organizations. This addiction to work, with symptoms similar to other behavioral or chemical addictions, has a “cousin” that has garnered increasing interest from work in education: study addiction.

Some may ask, “What’s wrong with being committed to studying?” While taking studies seriously is desirable in a student, there are negative long-term consequences that result from any tendency that becomes an addiction and cancels out the perceived benefits. Behavioral or chemical addictions alter mood and negatively impact physical and mental health.

Clearly, not everyone who studies a great deal is an addict. There are many “short stint” examples, such as challenging certification exams, that require intense, rigorous study leading to in-depth understanding of the information. Ask anyone who has prepared for the Certified Public Accountant exam! But at some point, the studying concludes, the exam is taken, and the experience is in the past. In academics, a major test or exam may prompt a few all-nighters. This is not addiction. It is prudence. A true addict studies incessantly, even when there is no pressing need. Even on break or in social settings, the individual will still think about studying or feel the urge to study, rather than interact with others.

This can wreak havoc in personal relationships, increase stress, and exacerbate physical symptoms. Ironically, it can significantly — and adversely — affect the study addict’s efforts, like the proverbial spinning of one’s wheels: great effort for little gain.

In addition, research has suggested that study addiction may be a precursor to workaholism or other issues, as many addicts tend to replace one addiction with another. Someone addicted to studying in school may be at increased risk to become addicted to work later on.

While study addiction may appear deceptively “positive,” most educators can bear witness to wasted potential, leading to attrition, especially in higher education. Spending time alone is not necessarily evidence of addiction in a student, but we need to be cognoscente of moods or other indicators of “off” behavior.

At Goodwin University, individuals who suspect that they or someone they know may be suffering from work or study addiction can access help and support through the University’s counseling services. Information is available at Those eligible for services include students who are enrolled in courses for the current semester, students residing in the University’s emergency housing, immediate family members of Goodwin students who meet specific criteria, and employees seeking referrals or immediate crisis intervention.

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