11 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Have you worked more than 50 hours this week? Do you consider yourself a workaholic? As it seems, just being addicted to working long hours isn’t enough to qualify you as a workaholic. If you add a continuous concern with work to the point that it interferes with everything else, you’ve got yourself a workaholic red flag.

A person with a job addiction, like someone who has a drug addiction, gets a “high” from work. As a result, they will continue to engage in the activity that provides them this pleasure. People who have a job addiction may find it difficult to stop, despite the negative effects it has on their personal lives, mental or physical health.

Helping a workaholic isn’t as easy as just implementing measures to spend less time in the office; it needs the support to reorient thoughts and disassociate a feeling of self-worth and significance from mere job performance. In this article, we look at the various aspects of workaholism and how it can be treated and cured.

Work addiction, sometimes known as “workaholism,” was created to describe an overwhelming desire to work all the time. A person who is suffering from this condition is known as a workaholic.

Work addiction is not a formally recognized mental disorder or medical condition, regardless of the fact that it is a well-recognized and accepted idea in popular culture and despite the presence of 40 years of literature on the topic. It is not listed in the DSM-5, the most recent edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

Work or even excessive work is often thought of as a positive attribute rather than a concern, which is one of the explanations for this lack of acknowledgment of work addiction. Overwork is valued in both monetary and cultural terms, and it can result in the worker being viewed in a more favorable light in various ways. Workplace addiction, like other addictions, can be a serious condition that interferes with relationships and functioning.

Several indicators of workaholism have indeed been discovered, despite the difficulty in accurately identifying work addiction. They are as follows:

  • Greater hecticness without a productivity increase
  • Obsessively making ways to free up a lot of time for work
  • Working over longer periods of time than scheduled
  • Excessive work is being done to sustain one’s self-worth.
  • Attempting to alleviate guilt, anxiety, depression, or sadness
  • Ignoring other people’s opinions or requests to reduce workload
  • Overwork or concentration on work might cause relationship issues.
  • Overwork and/or work-related stress can cause health problems.
  • Using employment to cope with, escape, or suppress negative emotions
  • Tolerance for work is growing, which means you’ll have to work harder to achieve the same results.
  • If you are unable to work, you may become stressed, or if you are not working, you may experience withdrawal.
  • When you try to reduce or stop working, you return to overwork.

These indications and signs of job addiction have a lot in common with other addictions, especially behavioral addictions, in which the dedication to the activity or behavior grows increasingly significant and takes precedence over other important aspects of life and relationships.

Workaholic inclinations can have a negative impact on the workaholic’s spouse and children.

The rate of divorce for couples where at least one partner is a workaholic is 40 percent higher, as per Bryan Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina and the creator of the 2000 and 2013 workaholic categories.

Furthermore, during the course of ten years, the Growing Up in Australia research undertaken by The Australian National University (ANU) and La Trobe University studied 2,500 employed couples and their children. Their goal was to figure out how a poor work-life balance influences parents’ devotion to their kids.

According to the report, six out of ten couples would find it hard to manage their job and family obligations. In addition, 1 in 7 couples had extended periods of time at work when one of the partners was struggling to manage these responsibilities.

This effect was also largest when the parents were working in demanding, rigid professions with little security and long hours, according to the study. The parents would be dissatisfied, fatigued, anxious, and grumpy as a result of this work-life conflict, and the mental health of the children would be jeopardized.

Furthermore, the U.S.A. Today’s poll discovered one notable shift in meal patterns between 1987 and 2008, which is likely to have an impact on family life. In 1987, for example, 50 percent of respondents said they ate at least one meal with their families every day. By 2008, however, this percentage had dropped to 20 percent of respondents, showing even another drop in the likelihood of interacting with relatives.

Up to a certain point, hard work is a good thing. Overworking doesn’t help you be more productive, and it might be hazardous to your health. It’s essential to learn how to reclaim your equilibrium. Here are some suggestions.

Know how to shut it down.

Make a deal with yourself to not work past a particular time and that you will respect that schedule. Have the ability to walk away.

Take a break from it all.

Even if it’s only for a few minutes, learn to take pauses during the day. Instead of snacking at your desk, just go out somewhere else to lunch. Change the surroundings by taking a little walk all-around the workplace or a short stroll to a nearby park. Even a 10-minute walk can make a significant difference.

Change your perspective.

You might be one of the countless folks who believe that working long hours demonstrates a good work ethic and those who take regular breaks (or spend nights, weekends, and holidays offline) are underachievers or less dedicated. However, such type of mentality is both erroneous and destructive, so resist it if you find yourself doing so. Remember that you are what you think.

Take it seriously.

When you are absorbed by work and you behave as if your life depends on it, you are putting your relationships and health at risk. Change must be taken seriously. If necessary, get assistance in learning advanced skills for managing your life.

Don’t take it home with you.

The most difficult of all the tests! Take the initiative of switching off your phone and detaching from your email when you get home. Make time for family and friends instead. It is indeed time to be the individual who may or may not be able to work for a while—and unless your profession requires literally saving lives, that’s fine.

Think about it.

Workaholics, more than other individuals, must learn how to turn off their critical thinking minds. Meditation is a wonderful tool for accomplishing this. Every day, set aside some time to actively slow down, breathe, unwind, relax your mind, and nourish your heart.

Set clear healthy limits.

Most people who are susceptible to chronic work overload also struggle to create and keep boundaries. Create a work schedule and stick to it as a starting point. If you really need to work late at night or on weekends, that’s OK, but do it on purpose, based on timetables and routines, not just because you are already there and haven’t passed out from tiredness.

Work addicts, as per the Dutch Workaholism Scale (DUWAS), work disproportionately, compulsively, or excessively. Because work addiction is a behavioral disorder comparable to compulsive shopping and gambling addiction, it is treated with cognitive and behavioral intervention tactics, multidimensional family therapy, motivational interviewing, and the 12-step approach.

Relaxation techniques, imaginary desensitization, behavior monitoring, assertiveness training, social skills training, and problem-solving approaches are all part of behavioral intervention treatment. Cognitive intervention treatment involves modifying the perspective of the workaholic towards their working style in order to change compulsive behavior. While this method is frequently used in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT, other workaholics benefit from separate intervention methods.

Most workaholics are unsure how they feel about changing their work habits. Most people are unaware of the negative effects of excessive labor on their interpersonal connections, as well as their physical and mental health. Motivational interviewing, which is used in work addiction therapy facilities, helps clients comprehend the negative impacts of compulsive working and so reduces their ambivalence. It also aids them in avoiding future workaholism.

Workaholics are more focused on their work than on their relations with friends and family, which can cause tension in those relationships. Because it addresses the tendencies of workaholism and tolerance that have developed within the family structure, family counseling is an important step in addressing work addiction. Therapists can also assist in the creation of a balanced schedule in which interpersonal relationships and work are given equal attention and time.

The 12-step programs for workaholics are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step system. It is a regional self-help support organization for those who are preoccupied with their work, similar to AA. Workaholics discover how to control themselves and build skills that will help them live a more balanced life. like other support networks, it respects its members’ privacy and confidentiality.

The cognitive aspect of being preoccupied with work (obsessively working) and the behavioral part of spending an inordinate amount of time committed to work (excessively working) are the hallmarks of a workaholic. It is advised that in therapy, both cognitive and behavioral factors be addressed.

A holistic strategy that focuses on diet, fitness, relaxation exercises, sleep, assertiveness training, stress management, and spiritual practices may help repair the mental and physical damage caused by overworking and prevent persistent work addiction. (Holland, 2007).

Understanding the concept of self-care and assisting your client in developing techniques for living a balanced lifestyle can help to build a sense of internal fulfillment, peace, and tranquility, which can help to settle a restless and preoccupied mind.

Generally, there is a paucity of strong clinical data on the usefulness of workaholism treatment programs, however, there are a few options of therapy for workaholics.

Workaholics Anonymous

Workaholics Anonymous (WA) was founded in 1983 and views workaholism as a disease, based on the Alcoholics Anonymous paradigm. WA has developed its own 12-step program and offers group support meetings as well as annual conferences.

They also offer a variety of tools, including newsletters, a quarterly journal of member writings, and information for workaholics’ family and friends.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Workaholics can benefit from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an effective and well-documented treatment strategy for behavioral addictions can help workaholics by the following methods (Andreassen, 2014):

  • Recognize habitual biased thinking. (“They’ll find a flaw and conclude that I’m stupid.”)
  • Substitute rigid thinking  and terminology in the workplace with flexible thinking and terminology (“I want to do the job myself or it would not get done correctly.”)
  • Question their fundamental precepts about perfectionism, self-worth, and fear of failure. (“If I work really hard, no one will notice how ineffective I am.”)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

REBT, a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, has been demonstrated to be useful in the treatment of workaholism (Chen, 2006).

REBT emphasizes confronting irrational ideas and substituting absolute terminology with emotive imagery and role-playing to navigate uncomfortable feelings and unpleasant emotional reactions, as well as increasing awareness of self-capacity to deal with events more productively (Andreassen, 2014).

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a counseling technique in which therapists use the client’s own internal drive to alter behavior to help them identify objectives and follow through with their endeavors to modify behavior.

This technique is most likely appropriate for workaholics seeking help because of the negative implications of their work stress (Sussman, 2012). Giving direct feedback on clients’ behavior and outcomes as a way to change self-destructive work patterns could be a vital component (Sussman, 2012).

Family Therapy

Family counseling can help people understand how their work affects their families, find the underlying sources of motivation that drive work habits, and establish a network of support to promote the implementation of new behaviors (Robinson, 1998).

Meditation Awareness Training

Meditation awareness training (MAT) offers mindfulness practices intended at developing perceptual separation from mental cravings. It is especially well-suited to behavioral addictions, as it is thought to have a favorable effect on inducing self-compassion for addictive habits (Van Gordon et al., 2017).

Workaholism symptoms, job satisfaction, job involvement, psychological distress, and work duration have all been proven to improve dramatically with MAT, as has the time spent engaging in work without a drop in performance (Van Gordon et al., 2017).

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