Work addictions and achievement obsessions are significantly different from most common addictions because there is virtually no stigma attached, particularly at the onset of the behavior. If you are a hard worker, you are generally commended, respected, and even promoted.
When people wonder how you can work 15 hours a day, 60 hours a week, work addicts feel a sense of pride and may be inclined to do more of the same. Often we identify with our careers , achievements, and the quality and quantity of work we do. Additionally, work can give us satisfaction, fulfillment and purpose. The benefits that the working world can provide may also include financial remuneration, promotion, and high status in the hierarchy of coworkers. All of these “rewards” serve to reinforce the belief that working a lot isn’t, or never could be, a problem.
Unfortunately, as many of us come to find out, there are many negative outcomes, often more than positive ones. Our lives become progressively more out of balance and there are often consequences in the areas of recreation, self care, emotional development, and most significantly, in our important relationships. Behaving as a human “doing” literally diminishes our capacity to be a human “being.” Disappointing loved ones, forgetting significant life events, inability to focus on the needs of family and friends are only a few of the consequences of workaholism. The nature of addiction is that it doesn’t self correct. Instead, there is a tendency to throw oneself more into the work world. Eventually it becomes the only area of satisfaction.
Workaholics become susceptible to stress, anxiety, weight loss, weight gain, anxiety and depression. Workaholism isn’t unique to the United States. But few other cultures encourage people to skip lunch and breaks, eat while driving, sleep fewer than 5 hours/day or take no more than two weeks vacation. There are employers who allow sick leave OR vacation and may not permit workers to carry over unused days to the following year. Workaholism is a systemic problem, reinforced by a culture that glorifies it. Denial is pervasive, not only for the addict, but the culture at large. If your life is becoming unmanageable and you are hurting yourself and others but continue on the same path, consider that you may be a workaholic.
If you believe that the amount you work has reached the point where it is hurting your personal relationships and/or affecting your health, please feel free to contact me by phone or e-mail to discuss a treatment plan.
To see books I recommend on work addiction please go here.