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Workaholics are the butt of many jokes, and workaholism tends to be thought of as simply working too hard; but you should know that workaholism is related to obsessive-compulsive disorder and is a problem that is becoming increasingly apparent in modern day society.

Those who work long hours simply to get through a heavy workload aren’t considered workaholics, rather, workaholics are those who feel themselves compelled to keep working to fulfill an inner need.


Being an all-consuming obsession with work, workaholism prevents a person from seeking or maintaining healthy relationships of outside interests and looking after their own health. Workaholics neglect their families and friends, and they are totally preoccupied with work even if they go on holiday.


Usually, a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy is the cause of workaholism. The workaholic often feels afraid of failure or feels the need to ‘prove’ him/herself, despite the fact that that person is usually extremely capable and intelligent.


All workaholics are invariably great perfectionists. Even if they tolerate the mistakes of others, they find tolerating their own mistakes difficult or even impossible. Additionally, they seem to be very driven people who just need to complete one more task before they finish for the day, and even after that they find it very difficult to relax. Workaholics perform jobs that are either very challenging or very creative most of the time, such as lawyers, writers, teachers, doctors, composers, and business owners or managers. Listed below are some of the symptoms that a workaholic displays:


  • Working 60 hours per week or more
  • Feeling guilty when not working
  • Obtaining almost all of their emotional and psychological gratification from work
  • Working or thinking about work every minute of the day, even when they are ill.
  • Being restless or bored when not working
  • Believing themselves to be the only person who is competent to do the job
  • Constantly talking about work, even when at home, with friends or on holiday


Workaholics are often prone to dehydration, gastric problems and mouth ulcers because they rarely stop work to eat or drink, and they may also suffer from frequent headaches and various stress-related conditions. The workaholic may also have depression due to his/her inability to work for any reason.


How can workaholism be treated?

To get to the underlying reasons why a workaholic works so compulsively and to identify ways in which they can change their behavior, treatment for workaholism may involve counseling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Workaholics usually need help to build their self-esteem in terms of communication issues, control and perfectionism issues, and in reconnecting with their feelings, which have often become buried or ignored throughout their years of compulsive work.


Confronting a workaholic usually meets with denial. To communicate the effects of the workaholic’s behavior on them, co-workers, family members and friends may need to engage in some type of an intervention. To assess the person and recommend treatment options, they could use the help of a therapist who works with workaholics.


The workaholic’s rigid beliefs and behaviors are formed in childhood; because of this, therapy will begin by exploring childhood experiences. In an effort to manage a chaotic family life or to take refuge from emotional storms, or physical or sexual abuse, the workaholic has often taken on parental responsibilities as a child.


Establishing the workaholic’s right to give attention to his/her own health and well-being, rather than constantly responding to others’ needs is quite an important step. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help the workaholic examine the rigid beliefs and attitudes that fuel overwork.


For instance, a core belief such as “I am only lovable if I succeed” could be replaced by the more functional belief “I am lovable for who I am, not for what I accomplish”.


How can a person achieve sobriety from workaholism?

Abstinence from work isn’t a realistic goal. Changing one’s attitudes and behaviors is involved in sobriety. The workaholic should develop a moderation plan that introduces balance into life, including a schedule that allows time for physical health, social support, emotional well-being, and spiritual practices. Setting boundaries between home and work is critical, as is scheduling daily and weekly time for self-care, friendships and play. The recovering workaholic should make time each day for a quite period, for prayer or meditation, for listening to music, or engaging in another “non-productive” activity.


There are meetings for workaholics that can provide support and tools for recovery. Medications can also help. Sometimes, the underlying cause of workaholism is ADD (attention deficit disorder). Whether ADD is a factor or not can be clarified with the help of a psychologist.


As the workaholic makes the needed behavioral changes, medication can help provide a more stable emotional climate in case anxiety or depression is a contributing factor. The work addiction can also provide an occasion for the co-workers, family members and friends to examine themselves. With the help of a therapist, these people can participate in group sessions where they reflect on ways that they may be encouraging the person’s overworking. Here are some questions that need to be answered:


  • Do tensions exist at work or home that the workaholic and others avoid by overworking or other addictive behaviors?
  • Do family members hold an ideal of “the good father/mother” that doesn’t allow for the normal success and failures of human life?


When the people who surround the workaholic examine their own lives, they will be better able to support the workaholic as he/she continues recovery.

Prepared By: Dr. Mehyar Al-khashroum
Edited By: Miss Araz Kahvedjian

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