Workaholism: Are You a Workaholic?


Do you call yourself a Workaholic? Are you addicted to work? Can’t find time to relax? Understand the nature of workaholism and the secret to a good work/life balance.

If working for 18-20 hours a day is your life, then it isn’t that business goal or promotion that’s driving you, there could be something else. You could be suffering from workaholism

What is Workaholism?

Workaholism is the addiction of working excessively for hard and long hours without concern for one’s own mental or physical well-being. A workaholic is a person who suffers from workaholism, and feels the compulsion to work for long and hard hours.

Do you remember Thomas Shelby? The famous character from Peaky Blinders played by Cilian Murphy. In the series, Thomas is suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but his way of dealing with it is submerging himself in work and more work apart from depending on drugs & alcohol. Now you might say that’s no way to live, but in reality, a lot of us unknowingly fall into this entirely different kind of addiction; that instead of helping us resolve emotional issues, it pushes us into a noisy abyss where the sense of self becomes all about what others want from us instead of what we want from ourselves. 

History of Workaholism

The term workaholism was coined in 1971 by minister and psychologist Wayne Oates, who described workaholism as “the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” A more comprehensive definition given by Clark, Michel, Zhdanova, Pui & Baltes (in press) includes components such as “feeling compelled to work because of internal pressures; having persistent thoughts about work when not working; working beyond what is reasonably expected of the worker (as established by the requirements of the job or basic economic needs) despite the potential for negative consequences (e.g., marital issues).”

This so called quality of working so hard, and that too, for ridiculously long hours is usually perceived as someone being immensely passionate about their job. It is hailed by everyone, and in most cases, people are also rewarded for it without realizing its impact on their overall well-being.

To understand this better, we need to delve into the possible reasons or underlying issues that may turn someone into a workaholic. The ‘hustle culture’ that has been trending over the years encourages and praises people who let their work invade all boundaries that are essential to maintain a balance between their professional and personal lives. Many times people tend to throw themselves into their work and keep themselves occupied to distract themselves from their thoughts and emotions instead of dealing with them in a healthy manner. 

Personality Associated with a Workaholic

Individuals who fit the criteria of type A personality and those who score high on the scales of extroversion, conscientiousness and neuroticism in the Big 5 or OCEAN (Openness, Consciousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) model of personality are prone to becoming workaholics. 

Signs of a Workaholic

Do you ask yourself “Am I a workaholic?” Here are the signs of being a workaholic:

1. Working Long and Excessive Hours

2. Working Longer Than Colleagues

3. Routinely Taking Work Home

4. Routinely Checking Work-Related Email and Texts at Home

5. Being Stressed without Work

6. Working to Reduce Anxiety, Guilt or Depression

Mentality of a Workaholic

A workaholic may not necessarily love their job. They just work because they feel like they should. On the other hand, they might love their job very much and would get a sense of achievement or a rush which leads them to having a desperate urge to keep going. They find it hard to avoid thinking about feeling stressed and guilty when they're not working. They also put in a lot more work than their companies expect from them. 

How Workaholism Affects Life

Eventually a workaholic’s job satisfaction starts to decline, while stress, counterproductive behaviour and cynicism starts to rise. With respect to their families, they may experience low family satisfaction along with marital dissatisfaction and work-life conflicts. Their physical health and emotional health also takes a toll and their overall life satisfaction starts to decline. An increasing number of people also run the risk of experiencing a burnout. They might even experience the phenomenon of depersonalization, which means they feel detached from their own self. 

Workaholism Studies

A study done by the University of Bergen showed that workaholism frequently co-occurs with psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and depression. Harvard University conducted another study, tracking numerous subjects over the course of 75 years. This study concluded that it is the good relationships that we form in our lives that keep us healthy and happy through our lives. It explains how very vital it is for us to have meaningful relationships and with others. It also talks about how loneliness can have detrimental effects on our psychological and physical well-being, and also be responsible for decline in our brain functioning - something that a workaholic might be headed for if he/she/them refuse to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Does a Good Job Promise a Happier Life?

Renowned psychologist, Martin E.P Seligman, created a model consisting of 5 components that would ensure a fulfilled & happy life. This model is called the PERMA model. P stands for Positive emotions, which means focusing on feeling good, creating and experiencing positive emotions; E stands for Engagement, which means being completely absorbed in the activities one is engaged in and indulging in a state of flow; R stands for Relationships, which means developing and maintaining authentic connections with others; M stands for Meaning, which means to find your purpose in life; and A stands for Achievement, which means having a sense of accomplishment and success in life. 

Unfortunately, the A has mostly been viewed as achievement in the job or financial sector of life. People have started perceiving jobs as part of their identity, as if the accomplishments they make at work determines their worth. What they need to remind themselves is that a job is just one part of your life and not your whole life. It is crucial to have a productive life outside of work and to not let your job determine your worth.

How to Treat Workaholism

Here is how to cure workaholism:

1. Identify the Problem

It is essential to be able recognize your own thoughts and beliefs and motives behind your actions. Addressing and recognizing the problem is the first step.

2. Take Steps to Ensure a Healthy Work/Life balance

Maintaining a balance between your work and professional life helps improve quality of life, emotional and physical well-being. It includes engaging in pleasurable activities & hobbies, developing healthy habits, spending time with loved ones, taking time out for self and establishing & maintaining boundaries. It’s important to realize the importance and benefits of doing so and not giving into the ‘hustle culture’.

3. Seek Professional Help

A mental health professional can not only help you recognize faulty patterns of thoughts and behaviours, but can also help you replace them with better ones. Helping you adopt better and healthier coping mechanisms, understanding yourself better, which would enable you to live a productive and full life.

So next time you blur the boundaries between work and personal life, just stop and think: is it really the passion for work or something else that could be making you strive so hard at work. Maybe an underlying issue that needs attention is treating the condition, which could help you prioritize your happiness.

Meditation for Workaholics

Mindfulness Meditation could help you dive deep within, silencing the sounds around and understand what is really that’s driving you towards workaholism. Click here to experience the meditation yourself.

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