to Identify and Address Workaholism
the adage goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Translated
into reality, however, a lifestyle of all work and no play has more
serious consequences than simply making Jack dull. Maintaining a
workaholic lifestyle will, over time, inevitably lead to a decline
in the quality of one's relationships and health.
are many myths to workaholism. One is that men predominate when,
in fact, the problem is equal among genders. Another myth is that
workaholism is exclusive to paid employment, but it can actually
occur in many unpaid activities. So long as any activity is carried
to an extreme, it can be considered workaholism.
also a popular notion that workaholics are driven by a poor sense
of self and are quite miserable, but there are actually different
types of workaholism, and the workaholic may actually be happy diving
into the multitude of tasks at work. It is not necessarily thought
of in a negative way by the individual experiencing it, even though
it is commonly believed to be an addiction.
we hear a lot about this disorder, workaholism is not
actually an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual (DSM-IV-TR) the diagnostic bible for psychiatrists
and psychologists in North America. In actuality, workaholism
is considered a symptom of obsessive/compulsive personality disorder
which is characterized by perfectionism, inflexibility, and preoccupation
is the obsessive-compulsive workaholic that we are most familiar
with: Jack who has low self-esteem and feelings of emptiness, and
does his darndest to overcome these through his work. Hes
driven by an inner compulsion to work, and he's obsessed with thinking
about how he can get more done and be more productive. His family
nags him to spend more time at home, which makes him feel worse,
so he spends even more time at the office to avoid the discomfort
of feeling like a disappointment.
theres the achievement-oriented workaholic: Jack who has high
self-esteem and loves being productive. He gets a thrill from the
challenge of having to complete tasks and a sense of satisfaction
from a job well done and then on to the next task!
theres necessary-to-be-a-workaholic workaholic: Jack who perceives
that he has no other choice than to work long hours to get the job
done in order to make ends meet, or to get the promotion that will
get him financially stable enough to stop working so much. Except
that once he gets the promotion, theres no end to the work.
the personality characteristics of these types of workaholics are
quite different, the effect their drive to work has on their lives
outside of the workplace is quite similar. This extreme commitment
to work often leads to a host of health problems, most commonly
exhaustion, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
on a regular basis results in the release of hormones like adrenaline
and cortisol within the body, which can ultimately create the following
Buildup of plaque in the blood vessels and an increased risk of
experiencing heart attacks and strokes.
risk of experiencing anxiety attacks, ulcers, burnout, and depression.
risk of experiencing weight gain and smoking or alcohol consumption.
put it simply, workaholism is bad for your health and most
workaholics seem to know this. Canadas National Population
Health Survey (1996-97) found that workaholics were less likely
than other workers to rate themselves as being satisfied with their
to the disproportionate amount of time and emotional energy they
put into their work, workaholics are likely to have relational problems
with the people in their lives outside of their jobs.
is a major source of marital breakdown; the spouse often feels lonely
of workaholics are more likely to be depressed and exhibit symptoms
of parentification behaving in a mature and responsible fashion
to carry the burden left in place of the absent parent than
children of regular workers.
of the workaholic often receive little or no support or understanding
because relatives and friends usually view the workaholic as merely
a hard worker trying to provide for the family. Workaholic tendencies
are even accepted, encouraged, and rewarded by society and corporate
culture. Employees who put in hard work via extra hours are often
on the receiving end of fat paychecks, bonuses, and promotions.
many workaholics often deny having a problem, how would you know
if you were one? To start you might ask yourself if you can enjoy
life and feel a sense of purpose when youre not at work. If
the answer is no then that should ring some alarm bells.
You might also consider consulting a checklist to see how closely
you match typical workaholic characteristics. Here are five qualities
to look for:
1. Preoccupation with work (almost always thinking about it).
2. Not comfortable with delegating (need to control every detail).
3. Other aspects of life (such as family and personal) are neglected.
4. Other parts of life are merged with work (e.g. hobbies are
turned into businesses or family members are incorporated into
the business you hire your spouse to be the bookkeeper,
5. Lying about doing something else when youre really working
(e.g. You tell your family youre going to play soccer with
your friends then head straight for the office).
article published in Oprah Magazines July 2007 edition and
written by Sara Reistad-Long, describes exercises recommended by
Stew Friedman, PhD, director of the Wharton School Work/Life Integration
Project for figuring out where the workaholics priorities
and life-ideals lie.
start, write down the following four categories:
each category, write down the elements that it encompasses. For
instance, under self," you might include health, spirituality,
etc. Under home, you might include spouse, children,
etc. Give each element two rankings from zero to one hundred; one
ranking for its importance to you and another ranking for how much
attention it gets each week. Then see how closely the numbers match.
youve done the above exercise, go back to the first three
to five elements under each category that you rated as most important.
Consider what the expectations are, yours and the other persons
(e.g. your spouse, your child), and how well these expectations
are being met. With this newfound knowledge and insight, you can
better figure out how to reorganize your life in order to meet your
states: The solution shouldnt be how to compromise your
career but how to enhance performance overall professional
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