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By Reon Janse van Rensburg

Is it possible to be addicted to your work?

The psychologist Wayne E. Oates first coined the term “workaholic” in his book Confessions of a Workaholic: The facts about work addiction, published in 1971. According to Oates, workaholics have a type of feeling, “an urge or uncontrollable need to work continuously”, and like other addictions, workaholism harms an individual’s health and interpersonal relationships, it can also affect their ability to function socially.

For many people, the term workaholic is carried with pride, as if it is something good that they have achieved by spending more time working than necessary. This term is often synonymous with dedication, ambition and initiative because workaholics are known for doing more than they have to and are often praised for it by their managers.

For this reason, Dr Malissa A. Clark makes an important distinction between the terms work addiction and job involvement.

According to Clark, employees who are involved in their work are driven to do so because they find their work enjoyable, while workaholics work because they have an inner urge/compulsion to work.

Workaholics often work to distract themselves from other tasks or issues, they frequently work unusual hours and are time and again uninvolved with their loved ones or their own lives.

What does workaholism entail?

Most of the time workaholics spend an excessive amount of time at work, neglecting other obligations and responsibilities. It is, however, impossible to judge everyone addicted to their work by the same yardstick as many cases are often unique.

However, there are a few characteristics that one can pay attention to in deciding whether or not a person is addicted to his or her work, i.e.:

  • severe paranoia and fear about their job performance;
  • losing necessary sleep to go to work earlier;
  • neglecting their health and well-being for work;
  • working long unusual hours, even when it is not needed;
  • neglecting personal relationships, missing important events in their personal lives because they spend all of their time at work.

How can I overcome my problem as a workaholic?

The first step to a solution is acknowledging that you have a problem. This is often also the most difficult step. Discuss the problem with your doctor or psychologist since they regularly deal with similar cases. If the problem is really serious, your doctor may suggest you join a rehabilitation programme, but most people do not have to go down this road.

The underlying reasons for work addiction can generally be traced back to a behavioural pattern from their childhood where a sense of accomplishment was measured by work performance. If you were praised as a child for performing well or working hard, you probably pushed yourself beyond your limits, striving for perfection to finally gain your parents’ approval. In the process, you could become lonely and alienated, and the process repeats itself when you are an adult. At work, workaholics want to impress their managers at all costs.

If you think that you might be a workaholic or feel you need more balance, make sure you take the time to experience different things in life. See yourself as a valuable person in other areas as well and not only in your work. Examine what determined your approach to work and why you feel so driven to perform. Not only will you take your time into your own hands, but you will also boost your relationships with people, your health, and your well-being.

 

Sources:

Work addiction is real – here’s how to kick the habit – https://www.atlassian.com/blog/productivity/work-addiction-is-real

Workaholics anonymous – https://www.news24.com/w24/SelfCare/Wellness/Body/Workaholics-anonymous-20080229

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