Chances are you know a workaholic. You may even be one yourself. It’s not often considered a ‘real addiction’ and for the most part, we willfully admit to it, are proud of it, and even laugh it off. After all, if you’re a workaholic, you’re a hard worker. You’re dedicated. You take your work seriously.
But what if it really means you work too hard, too much, and take work too seriously? And what if those things translate to reduced happiness and increased stress. What if you really are addicted to work, forgoing your own personal health in favor of pushing yourself harder and harder?
Diagnosing the Problem
The truth is, workaholism is real and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a compulsion, just like any other addiction. In fact, researchers at the University of Bergen in Norway published a report calling it the “addiction of this century” and detailing seven criteria indicating addition:
- Thinking of how to dedicate more time to work
- Spending excessive amounts of time work
- Working to reduce guilt, depression, anxiety, or helplessness
- Ignoring those who say you should cut down on time spent working
- Becoming stressed when you’re unable to work
- Prioritizing work over hobbies, exercise, or leisure activities
- Experiencing negative health consequences as a result of excessive work
If you say yes (often or always) to four or more of these things, their research indicates you might be a workaholic.
While young adults are typically affected more than their peers, there is no difference among genders. There does seem to be certain personality traits more likely to be workaholics, those that work too much are typically:
This isn’t a matter of simply being unable to say “no” from time to time or being the ever-so-slight neurotic perfectionist. Nor does it imply that every mad scientist or creative genius has a problem. It only suggests that those that are workaholics share these traits. In other words, not all neurotic, agreeable, creatives and intellectuals are workaholics, but all workaholics are those things, just as not all who enjoy alcohol are addicted, but all alcoholics drink alcohol.
Although we may wear our “workaholic” badge with honor, we shouldn’t. Addictions come at the expense of you. It’s a vicious cycle that attacks your mental and physical well being—and workaholism is no exception.
Unfortunately, the research is relatively new, and stateside, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual doesn’t include work addiction, which makes treatment difficult.
This doesn’t mean all is lost. Being mindful and setting boundaries are great ways to separate work from life. After all, even if being a hard worker is a good thing, too much of a good thing isn’t always so wonderful.
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