While it's good to be passionate about your job, there's a fine line between ambition and obsession. I should know; I try to get as far as I can on the passion side of the spectrum without hitting the obsession side of it. Admittedly, it's a challenge. After all, with today's tech, your work is accessible no matter where you go. Even on the weekends, many of us still answer emails and prepare notes for Monday's presentation. Taking time off is a thing of the past, and it's easy to get swept up in the competitive nature of today's work culture.

Do you have an unhealthy work/life balance? Here are some of the top warning signs:

  1. You can't switch gears from professional to personal.

Being a workaholic is more than putting in long hours at the office. Bryan Robinson, psychotherapist and author of the book Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, defines "workaholism" as "someone on the ski slopes who is dreaming about being back in the office." "A healthy worker is in the office dreaming about being on the ski slopes." In other words, workaholism is the inability to stop thinking about work.

  1. You work through every lunch hour.

Taking a break during your day is important for both your mental and physical health.

"Many of us believe that the best way to get more work done is to work more hours," says Stephanie Marston, stress expert, best-selling author and motivational speaker. "But the reality is that we're more productive when we build in intermittent periods of renewal during our day." Translation? Take a lunch break whenever possible.

Several studies confirm Marston's point. You'll be more productive if you reward yourself with small breaks throughout the day. It may sound counterintuitive, but taking short breaks doesn't hurt your productivity; rather, it improves your output.

  1. It starts taking a toll on your physical health.

Even worse than not taking a lunch break: some people are so pressed for time that they skip meals entirely in order to continue working. Also, many workaholics are sleep deprived as a result of putting in so many long hours and being unable to mentally detach themselves from their job.

"When your stress response is trumping your rest and digest response, what happens is our body secretes cortisol, adrenaline and a lot of other hormones that are really detrimental physically," explains Robinson. "We know for a fact these things lower our immune system. They clog our arteries. So they create all kinds of physical illnesses."

Over time, the prolonged mental and physical stress can lead to more serious health issues. And if you truly care about your work output, you'll cut down on stress whenever possible so you can ensure your future work productivity isn't hampered by illness.

  1. You derive all your confidence and happiness from your job performance.

It's not a good sign if your mood is entirely dependent on how well work is going. For example, if your presentation didn't go as planned or you didn't get the raise you expected, you go into a funk and it's nearly impossible to get out of it.

"Workaholics define their self and self-esteem by achievement only," says executive coach Marilyn Puder-York, PhD., author of the book The Office Survival Guide.

I'm not saying that love and support from your friends and family needs to be the only thing that matters. After all, many of us spend more time at work than anywhere else, so it should be a factor in happiness. It just shouldn't be the only factor in happiness.

Do you identify with any of these signs? If so, it might be time to rethink your career path or at the very least, take a vacation. You deserve it.

Published on: Nov 20, 2014
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