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Work Addiction

Work addiction is not considered by most to be a real problem, but as with any other addiction, millions of people suffer from unbalanced and unmanageable lives as a result of this disorder. While hard work and long hours have contributed to some of mankind's greatest accomplishments, work addiction is not indicative of productivity or even having a job at all. Work addicts tend to be less productive as a result of failure to work efficiently and manage their own health and personal life in a way that allows them to thrive in their work environment.

What is Work Addiction?

Work addiction is a constant obsession with work that causes failures in completing tasks, destruction of home and personal lives, and health issues. In most cases, simply working hard or putting in long hours is enough to cause exhaustion, both physically and mentally. In the case of people suffering from work addiction, working hard and long hours isn't enough. While a normal worker may think putting in 90 hours a week is overkill, a work addict may think every minute of every day that he/she is not working is going to result in disaster.

Not every work addict is the same, although the very nature of addiction, no matter what it is, results in some common behaviors and thought processes. One of these is absolute thinking - winning or losing, right or wrong. Addicts often fail to see the grey area in any given situation, and for work addicts, this is especially true of their tasks. One of the nation's leading researchers on this disorder, Bryan Robinson PhD says "overall, workaholics tend to be less effective than other workers because it's difficult for them to be team players, they have trouble delegating or entrusting co-workers, or they take on so much that they aren't as organized as others". He has indicated four different kinds of work addicts:

  1. Bulimic Workaholic - This individual feels that a project or task must be done perfectly or not at all. They tend to procrastinate in getting started, then rush to satisfy a timeline. They will then work in a feverish and disorganized manner to the point of exhaustion to finish, usually with sloppy results.
  2. The Relentless Workaholic - This person loves the adrenaline of being busy and will take on more tasks than can possibly be done. Having too much on his/her plate, they will often rush from one thing to the next, neglecting to be careful and thorough.
  3. The Attention-Deficit Workaholic - This worker loves the brainstorming phase of a project or task, but fails to follow through with the details necessary for completion. They often get bored with projects and leave them incomplete to begin brainstorming for another.
  4. The Savoring Workaholic - This person works slowly and methodically and usually does not work well with others. Every detail must be perfect and no one else can do it perfectly. Work is often completed later than anticipated because "it's not perfect".

In his interview with WebMD, Bryan Robinson, PhD stated another important characteristic of work addiction when he said "the workaholic is on the ski slopes dreaming about being back at work, and the hard worker is in the office dreaming about being on the ski slope." Work addiction is a true obsession with work, even during vacations or other times of what should be for leisure or personal enjoyment. Workaholics not only obsess with work, they also have increasing problems at home and in their personal lives. Some of the negative consequences that work addicts experience are as follows:

  • Poor job performance that may result in demotion or termination
  • Health complications as a result of sleep deprivation, unhealthy or unstable diet, high stress, or lack of proper hygiene.
  • Deteriorating relationships with loved ones and friends from inability to think about or engage in activities outside of work.
  • Psychological imbalances from work are often displayed in personal lives of work addicts as well. They will often approach their personal errands and responsibilities in the same manner they do their work tasks.

How Does Work Addiction Develop?

Work addiction can effect anyone, but those who are particularly susceptible are

  • Persons with low self esteem or constantly seeking the approval of others
  • Perfectionists
  • Recovering or active addicts
  • People who tend to become obsessive about things in which they are involved

In each of these personalities lies a greater risk for work addiction. Whether it's a result of taking on more work than one person can do, or setting unrealistic expectations for themselves, work addicts never need to work the way they do. Some workaholics set themselves up for feverish work by procrastinating from fear of not being perfect. Others feel as though they need to work constantly, even though it is not necessary.

Workaholism Recovery

Workaholics, like any other addict can change their lives to be happy, healthy, and productive with treatment and aftercare. Once a work addict has been able to admit to problem with his/her life as a result of their obsession with work, they can begin the treatment process. In work addiction treatment, an addict will learn how to prioritize, see beyond their absolute thinking, and make their work and their lives more productive. Since work is not most people can abstain from, it is necessary to find and maintain a balance between work and personal life.

For work addicts and all workers, there are a few general guidelines to health and happiness in the pursuit of success and productivity.

  1. Scheduling time is key to achieving success. There should always be a time for work and time for home. It is important to prioritize family events and work tasks, ensuring a healthy balance that doesn't neglect any aspect
  2. Health is always important for everyone. Regular check-ups at the doctor and a healthy diet with exercise help to preserve a healthy mind and body.
  3. Make time for social interaction in order to keep relationships fresh and interesting.
  4. Try to adhere to a solid sleep schedule. Set a bedtime that allows 8 hours of sleep in order to awaken refreshed and rested.
  5. Take short breaks during work to get fresh air, stretch and renew thoughts.
  6. Stay on schedule as often as possible. When it is time to leave for dinner with a spouse or to watch a child's performance, it is vital to be able to put the work down and walk away from it.

Most people wouldn't think of work as an escape or something to "want" to do, but for millions of people struggling with work addiction, there is nothing other than work. The good news is that there is effective help for workaholics in the form of therapy, outpatient, and inpatient treatment programs. If you or someone you know may be suffering from work addiction, please fill out our free confidential assessment or call us at 1 to speak with one of our trained counselors who will work with you to find the most effective approach and form of treatment for your situation. We are here to help.

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