It has become a corporate fad for workers to claim they are workaholics. Why not? It could attract favour from the boss or employers, as well as portraying the worker as dependable macho men.
The trend throws up two issues. Hard work is often confused with workaholism. Some people are simply hard workers, who love their jobs and go the extra mile to finish a project and are not workaholics.
For those who are truly workaholics, they may have to seek medical advice. Even God took a break: “on the seventh day, even God rested” but for workaholics, the day of rest never comes. There is always one more this, one more that to do.
A workaholic is a person who works compulsively. According to Wikipedia, while the term generally implies that the person enjoys their work, it can also imply that they simply feel compelled to do it. The consequences are heavy for the workaholic. In addition to the possibility of ruining relationships, workaholism hurts the health of the individual. Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues.
Studies show that workaholism frequently co-occurs with ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. Workaholics are two or three times more likely to suffer psychiatric disorders.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
- Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
- Hyperactivity means a person seems to move about constantly, including situations in which it is not appropriate when it is not appropriate, excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.
- Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.
- OCD is obsessive-compulsive disorder
A large national Norwegian study shows that workaholism frequently co-occurs with ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression. The study showed that workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than non-workaholics.
Researchers examined the associations between workaholism and psychiatric disorders among 16,426 working adults.
“Workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms than non-workaholics,” says a researcher at the University of Bergen.
The study identified the following signs of workaholism on the, with which you could check yourself. The rating was on a scale of 1 (never) to 5 (always).
- You think of how you can free up more time to work.
- You spend much more time working than initially intended.
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression.
- You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
- You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
- You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
- You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
- Scoring a 4 (often) or 5 (always) on four or more of these statements indicates a workaholic.
The Robinson Experience
Nothing perhaps illustrates the negative effects of workaholism better than the personal experience of an expert on the subject. Bryan Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a private psychotherapist — and a self-professed recovering workaholic
“Workaholism destroys families and harms children, who have greater depression, anxiety and a greater external focus of control, which means they are people-pleasers instead of following their own drumbeat,” he says.
Robinson’s own obsession with work led to a study in 2001 that scientifically established workaholism as an addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“We also did the first study ever on the spouses and children of workaholics,” Robinson says. “What we have found is that a workaholic is very similar to an alcoholic. Workaholics take better care of their cars than themselves. They pay more attention to their technology than the people they love the most. That doesn’t mean they don’t love them, but like an alcoholic, the drug comes before everything else.”
In a national study involving families with and without a workaholic, Robinson found that people in the workaholic homes were 40 percent more likely to divorce and experienced greater marital estrangement and conflict.
Robinson’s life hit bottom in 1983 when, despite his prolific and respected academic output, his life felt empty. His life partner, Jamey, left him out of frustration. Robinson found himself estranged from colleagues and without any close friends. For the first time, he was plagued with self-doubt.
Difference between hard-work and worhaholism
Experts, among them Dr Morley Glicken, have carefully differentiated hard-working people from workaholics.
An interesting way of drawing the line is found in a study which shows that what we typically call a workaholic, with its negative connotations, may more correctly be understood when we look at that person’s motivation to work.
The researchers found that people work hard because:
- They want the financial rewards of hard work. They are “material goal seekers.”
- They find little enjoyment from leisure activities. They can be called “low leisure” hard workers.
- They love the perks they get at work, such as friendships, an easy commute, great working conditions, a good health plan, etc. They are “perkaholics” rather than workaholics.
- They want to work just for work’s sake. They are the true workaholics.
- Hard workers think of work as a required and (at times) pleasurable obligation. Workaholics see work as a way to distance themselves from unwanted feelings and relationships.
- Hard workers keep work in check so they can be available to their family and friends. Workaholics believe that work is more important than anything else in their lives, including family and friends.
- Workaholics get excitement from meeting impossible demands. Hard workers don’t.
- Hard workers can take breaks from work while workaholics can’t. They think about work regardless of what they’re doing or who they’re with.
According to Glicken, workaholism means that you value work over any other activity, even when it negatively affects your health and family, as well as the quality of your work. On the other hand, there are many people who put in long hours, but still give back to their loved ones and enjoy outside activities when they have free time. These people are hard workers, not workaholics. There is a very serious distinction between the two.
“When work becomes all consuming and joyless – that is, you go well beyond what’s necessary and have no other interests or activities – it becomes a negative addiction.
“Workaholics work because they have nothing else to take its place. Their work addiction is a recurring obsession, and typically joyless.
These days too many people are being labeled (or labeling themselves) “workaholics” just for putting in a few extra hours per week. The truth is that in a poor economy, many of these people are working extra hard just to keep their jobs.
“Real workaholics have few (if any) outside interests. They let their family lives fall apart. They often have health problems and suffer from depression and deep insecurities.
“By contrast, a workaholic is someone who constantly thinks about work, and without work feels anxious and depressed. Workaholics are difficult to get along with, because they frequently push others as hard as they push themselves.”