Is Workaholism a Real Problem?
Workaholism does not get much attention in the psychiatric community but for those individuals who are addicted to work, there are common characteristics that are shared with other addictive disorders. The workaholic may exhibit feelings of dissatisfaction with their psychological, physical, and social lives. A workaholic may spend excessive time at work and is typically driven by external incentives such as tangible and intangible rewards. The workaholic denies unpleasant emotions and might exhibit behavior that is aligned only with their interests, goals, or values. Workaholism is associated with instant gratification and material values, which are reinforced in our society.
Workaholism can be caused by a variety of factors including abuse or neglect in childhood, abandonment, feelings of incompetency, unfulfilled needs, and low self-esteem. The influences of society also play a role in the onset of workaholism. Society places a high value on social status and activities focused on spending and possession, ultimately glamorizing wealth as a symbol of happiness. These influences can play a significant role in the exacerbation of workaholic behaviors, which often result in opposite outcomes.
Treatment is available for the workaholic; however, there are many who work too much who simply deny the problems. They may rationalize their behavior as necessary to support their families or to have nice homes and things. If a person decides that they no longer want to work so much, there is help available. Many can find a psychotherapist that specializes in work issues to explore the denial and underlying forces that influence the workaholic’s emotions and behaviors.
The therapist can work with the individual to understand the consequences of their behavior and address any underlying issues with depression or anxiety. The individual can learn to set limits to their working behaviors and to address dysfunctional thoughts such as rationalization and denial. The therapist can help the workaholic set both short and long-term goals and to help the workaholic to recognize symptoms, internal and external motivators, thoughts, feelings, and consequences associated with the behavior. The therapist might also address any relationship issues arising from the workaholic’s neglect of the family due to working so many hours.
One difficulty in identifying and treating workaholism is the technological world we live in. Access to work email is a 24/7 event. Many people who take vacations often take computers and phones with them so they can continue to work. In addition, there are many jobs today that can be performed from a home office; therefore, it is less likely to be recognized as a problem if the workaholic is home all day and able to spend time with the family. As with any addiction, the individual needs to recognize there is a problem and seek help.
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