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Workaholism – Is This An Addiction?


Working hard and being a workaholic are two completely different things. Being devoted to a career can be a positive thing whereas working long hours and sacrificing health, family and relationships in the process, indicates all is not well.  Obsessively thinking about work all the time and being consumed by the job are signs of full-blown work addiction.

Experts say that this incessant need to work may arise from low self-esteem, anxiety and problems with intimacy and as with other addictions, the workaholic will initially deny there is a problem. Persistence of this obsessive-compulsive behaviour may eventually damage relationships and personal health, and as there is very little social stigma attached to this type of addiction, health symptoms may be overlooked. Eating habits can be affected with meals being missed or snacking on junk food whilst working and general fitness will deteriorate over time. Many workaholics will use caffeine and cigarettes to keep going which will also affect health.

All Work And No Play

Workaholics feel the need to be busy all of the time and yet can be extremely ineffective workers. Focussing on being busy instead of being productive means they are often involved in tasks, which aren’t necessary for the project in hand. They often have difficulties working as part of a team, find it difficult to delegate tasks to others and struggle with organization due to taking on too heavy a workload. Sleep deprivation can be a huge problem, which can cause compromised perception.

In Japan, workaholism is considered a huge problem and can often lead to early death. Over 10,000 deaths per year are due to overworking. The Japanese even have a word for death due to overworking, ‘karoshi.’  In the UK one in six people work more than 60 hours per week. Whilst we associate the word ‘workaholic’ with paid work, it also can be associated with people who practice fitness, sports and hobbies to extreme levels.

Treatment

As workaholics can rarely see that they have a problem, confrontation will usually be met with denial. Family or co-workers will need to get involved and find a way to convey to the workaholic how his or her behaviour is affecting them. Professional and medical intervention may be required to give mental treatment and also explore the background behind the behaviour. Counselling is important and support from groups may prove useful especially as there will be others with similar work addiction issues.

Workaholism is one of the more tricky addictions to identify. Workplaces may capitalise on overworking tendencies for their own benefit and the increased pressure to work can exacerbate the problem. Eventually it can lead to complete burnout and only then is the addiction addressed. Finding a balance between work and personal life is important for not just good physical health but mental health too. Instead of fitting in life around work, perhaps we should be trying to live more. Workaholism is becoming a problem that society needs to address, as more and more people find that work-related stress is damaging everyday life.

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