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What is a Workaholic?

The term workaholic was coined in the U.S. to describe the most respectable, encouraged and praised of all addictions. Workaholism affects millions of people and is as dangerous as any other addiction.

Workaholism is known as a process addiction. A process addiction is an addiction to certain behaviors or processes that alter mood and brain chemistry. Unlike chemical addiction, the brain is altered by the process of engaging in an activity as opposed to introducing a chemical to the body. The term addiction encompasses any recurring compulsion or obsession by an individual despite negative consequences and an inability to cease the activity and remain stopped. Besides workaholism, process addictions include eating disorders, love addiction, sexual disorders, shopping addiction, problem gambling, and internet addictions.

The Difference Between Hard Work and Workaholism

For a workaholic, the obsession with work is relentless and goes far beyond being a “type A” personality. It prevents the individual from engaging in healthy relationships, sustaining outside interests or even physically caring for themselves. It becomes a problem when there is no balance and boundaries are weak.

Like an alcoholic who needs a drink, the workaholic will work not because they have to, but out of necessity. As with drug and alcohol addiction, a bottom must be reached before the individual will realize a problem exists. Reaching a bottom is considerably more difficult as someone who over-works is rewarded by society.

Work Addiction Syndrome

As with other addictions, denial can play a major role. An individual’s carrer or work becomes who they are, not what they do. Many workaholics develop an altered perception of their lives which they are supported and compensated for by corporations. The long term health care costs are not considered upfront. James Fearing, Ph.D., C.C.D.P., President and CEO of National Counseling Intervention Services (NCIS), Inc. developed the following key questions commonly used in evaluating the work addiction syndrome.

[ADUNIT]The Work Addiction Syndrome Checklist

  • How much time do you spend working, and how much time do you spend with family, friends, etc.? Is your work schedule causing problems in your family or social life?
  • Do you feel out of control or powerless at times when it comes to setting limits, going home or quitting work for the day?
  • Are you having a difficult time enjoying the “fruits” of your labors, in spite of the financial success or being respected and admired in your company or industry?
  • Do you break promises to yourself, family, or friends regarding work time, travel schedules, and other related employment activities?
  • Do you have difficulty “letting go” and delegating work?
  • Has your work patterns affected intimate friendships, and/or important social activities you once enjoyed such as vacations, fishing, sports, museums, reading?
  • When on vacation, is it difficult to relax and disengage from work, therefore interrupting or contaminating your vacation time with family or friends? (Phone calls, laptop, pagers)
  • Has your physical health deteriorated due to an excessive work schedule? Have you continued to “push the needle into the red” in spite of warnings from your doctor, psychologist, colleague, or boss?
  • Have you surprised yourself at how easy you “fly off the handle” or “lose it” these days? Are people in your life having to “tip toe” around you due to this volatility? Is this different than you use to be?
  • Have you unsuccessfully attempted to cut down or stop from overworking, over committing, staying at the office, etc. Promising to spend more time at home, going to the gym or golf course, and not following through.

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may be suffering from the Work Addiction Syndrome. If so support and recommendations available from working with an experienced professional can be found on this website. A treatment center along with support and objectivity from a caring professional can help.

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