This made me instantly think: ADD/ADHD. Then I re-read the rest of your post and that reinforced my impression.
Originally Posted by sparkyjf
I'm positive that I have ADHD, though I haven't been diagnosed. The description of ADD/ADHD that hits home most for me is the idea that it's a dysfunction in the brain's reward center. Most people's brains "reward" them even when the task that they're working on isn't inherently rewarding. This reward allows them to maintain focus on those unrewarding tasks - allows them to do them.
By "reward", I don't mean, "Ooh, this is fun! Yay!" I just mean that the task is tolerable, bearable, that you're not fighting tooth and nail just to make yourself keep on working on the task, not having to focus full-force on "Keep doing it. Keep doing it. Keep doing it." To work on a boring task when you have ADHD is not unlike forcing yourself to drink an entire bottle of disgusting cough medicine; you can keep making yourself take another sip, but every single sip is a pitched battle against a brain that is shrieking that IT DOESN'T WANNA!!!!
So if your brain is lacking in rewards that are really mandatory for normal functioning in even non-scarey tasks, then tasks that are anti-rewarding, anxiety-producing, are of course going to be even more of a battle.
Stimulants--like coffee--help, for brain chemistry reasons that I don't fully understand. Urgent deadlines help for some reason--I don't know if they act like a stimulant, or if making progress toward that deadline serves as the missing reward--but only if the deadline is urgent enough. For me, stupidity--the stupidity that I get when I'm short on sleep or I have a cold--helps a great deal, though that's just an interesting fact, not something that I'm going to seek. Tryptophan-rich foods seem to help with me; they're supposed to be good for dopamine, which is important for that reward thing. I have a big, big bag of tricks that I use to keep on tasks.
So, I'd suggest reading about ADHD, starting with _Driven to Distraction_. If you don't recognize yourself, OK, it's just one wasted book. If you do, it might help lead to solutions.
Edited to add: And your mention of not allowing yourself to play suggests that you also have a bag of tricks, but that perhaps whatever you're using to keep yourself from "playing" is going too far. If your brain doesn't reward you normally, then it's my experience that you have to arrange to reward yourself. Playing games, watching nonsense on TV, puttering with hobbies, shopping within reasonable financial limits, whatever makes you happy without harming you, is probably worth inserting into your routine.