Workaholism is an unhealthy compulsion to work that often negatively affects people’s personal lives, including their relationships with friends and family and even their health. Workaholics have difficulty balancing work with other aspects of their lives and tend to feel anxious if they’re not connected to work. They tend to constantly be either working, or thinking about work.
Are You a Workaholic?
Workaholics Anonymous has created a list of 20 questions to help people recognize workaholic tendencies; answering “yes” to three or more may indicate workaholism. Questions you can ask yourself include:
- Do you bring work home with you on weekends and/or on vacation?
- Do you feel irritated if people ask you to stop working to do something else?
- Do you read or work when eating meals?
- Do you think about work when other people are talking, when driving or when falling asleep?
- Do you think that more money will solve your life problems?
- Do you think you’ll be a failure or lose your job if you don’t work hard enough?
- Do you try to make money from your hobbies?
- Do you work over 40 hours per week?
- Have your long work hours affected your relationships?
- Is work more exciting to you than your family or friends?
Why do People Become Workaholics?
As with any addiction, the reasons for workaholism are varied. Some research points to possible workaholic roots beginning in childhood.
Children who are raised by alcoholics or in a dysfunctional family setting may use work to try to control an uncomfortable or undesirable situation, both in childhood and as an adult. Also, children raised by perfectionist parents who have high expectations may grow up feeling like their efforts are never good enough, and that they have to continuously prove themselves in life and in work.
Workaholics often use work to escape their feelings and to gain a sense of control in their lives. They search out jobs that are stressful and intense, which can support (and even reward) their workaholic tendencies.
Ironically, even though workaholics may put in an inordinate amount of hours, they tend to be ineffective employees. They are often:
- Ineffective delegators: They feel no one else can do the job.
- Overscheduled: They take on so much work that they don’t have the time to do any one job well.
- Poor team players: They don’t know how (and don’t want) to share the work.
In addition, they are more prone to experiencing depression and anxiety than employees who lead a more balanced life.
Treatment for Workaholics
Counseling is often an effective treatment for workaholics, and can help them discover the underlying reasons for their behavior and teach them how to change thought patterns and find balance in life. Support groups are also beneficial and can help workaholics learn valuable skills, such as:
- Managing a schedule
Workaholics Anonymous Staff. (n.d.). Twenty questions: How do I know if I’m a workaholic? Retrieved June 6, 2010, from the Workaholics Anonymous website: http://www.workaholics-anonymous.org/page.php?page=signposts.
Lorenz, M. (2007). Are you obsessed with your job? Retrieved June 6, 2010, from the CNN.com website: http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/09/17/cb.toomuch.work/index.html.
Kirchheimer, S. (n.d.). Workaholism: The ‘respectable’ addiction. Retrieved June 6, 2010, from the WebMD website: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/workaholism?page=2.