Do you “work to live”? Or “live to work”?
Are you working long hours; taking work home; frequently checking messages and emails outside of working hours, even when you are on holiday? Does your job consume you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then there is a chance that you have some workaholic tendencies.
Most of us need to work to put food on the table; clothes on our back; pay household bills; and cover all the costs involved with running a car. Sometimes we will work a little extra so we can take nice holidays or be able to splash out on new toys. Enjoying the work you do is a bonus; getting a sense of fulfilment; some recognition for a job well done; career progression; and being paid handsomely, are all constructive goals to work towards.
Putting in long hours and being available outside of “normal” working times is pretty commonplace nowadays. Especially as modern technology means emails and messages are easily received on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, saving the hassle of logging onto a network or server. And sometimes it is just easier to ping a quick reply to a query, then and there, rather than leave a colleague or supplier hanging until the next working day – and is often appreciated.
But when does being dedicated and enthusiastic about your job, stray into an obsession, a negative attribute, rather than a positive trait?
For those individuals struggling with workaholism, switching off from their job becomes almost impossible. They are driven to work, often when unnecessary, even though it is destructive to their well-being and relationships.
The Collins online English dictionary definition – “A workaholic is a person who works most of the time and finds it difficult to stop working in order to do other things.”
Workaholism, or work addiction, whilst not currently classified as such in the DSM-5 (the current and fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders), many experts agree is a type of behavioural or process addiction and can be defined as a toxic, obsessive-compulsive addiction towards work.
The causes of it are thought to be anxiety, low self-esteem, and intimacy issues. It often stems from a compulsive need to achieve status and success, and addicts crave the validation that they get from meeting goals and deadlines, doing well, getting a promotion, a pay rise or simply being recognised.
Like any other addiction, those battling will prioritise their addiction, in this case work, above everything else, family, friends and even their health. This leads to a breakdown in relationships and can cause them serious damage, both physically and mentally. Workaholics often find it hard to cope with difficult emotions and use work to avoid or escape from dealing with life.
People who are addicted to work often show the following symptoms:
• Working long hours, more frequently or harder than any of their peers.
• Failing to keep up with responsibilities at home, with friends or previously enjoyed hobbies.
• Harmful consequences to overworking. Back pain, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, sleep, depressive or anxiety disorders.
• Difficulty slowing down, cutting back, or switching off.
• Problems with close relationships due to prioritising work over everything else.
• Being secretive or minimising the amount of time spent working.
• Working to avoid or stop feelings.
• Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, irritability, or restlessness when not working.
• Being obsessed with work-related success and paranoid of failure or poor work performance.
Whilst some bosses might love the idea of employing someone who is willing to work all hours of the day (and night). In the long term it is not helpful to either the company or the individual themselves. Research shows workaholics have higher burnout rates and shortened careers. They are at greater risk for heart attacks and Type 2 diabetes. They often have compromised immune systems, high blood pressure and regularly suffer with headaches and stomach problems.
Workaholics have trouble with self-care; socialising; devoting attention to their families; engaging in activities and hobbies; in fact, in doing anything that isn’t work. They will fight against taking vacations (or any time off at all). If they are coerced into one, you are more likely to find them holed up in their hotel room with their laptop, rather than relaxing by the pool with a book.
This sort of behaviour is not conducive to having a successful relationship, and work addicts often struggle with intimacy and personal connections.
Work addiction can co-occur with conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder. It can also lead to other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, stress, and burnout.
With any mental health problem, it is best to get checked out by a qualified medical professional, who can assess and treat the addiction and any underlying conditions. Different types of one-to-one and group therapy have proved highly successful.
The Bergen Work Addiction Scale, developed in 2012, by researchers from the psychology department of the Norwegian University of Bergen, in collaboration with the UK Nottingham Trent University, is commonly used to identify whether someone is a work addict.
Rated on a scale of 1-5:
The following seven basic criteria is used in the assessment:
• 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 and 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 deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
• You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
A score of (4) often, or (5) always, on at least four of the seven, may suggest that an individual is a workaholic.
It is difficult to determine precisely when someone has changed from being a conscientious, hard worker, to a fully-fledged workaholic. But if you identify with any of the following signs – it might be worth taking a step back and looking at your work/life balance.
• You are the first to arrive and last to leave.
• You consistently work through your lunch break.
• You micromanage and struggle delegating to others.
• You regularly take work home, often unnecessarily.
• You check messages/emails repeatedly, sometimes even in the middle of the night.
• You don’t take vacations, or when you do, you continue to work during them.
• You get anxious and stressed when you are not at work.
• You don’t have any hobbies.
• Your time and relationships are compromised.
• You miss meals, or sleep, because of work.
• You are completely defined by work.
Here at our private residential rehab center in Ibiza we can help. We treat clients with a variety of emotional and psychological conditions, including addiction, alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, and burnout, using a carefully researched and constructed program of recovery with a superb team of specialised, highly qualified, doctors, therapists, and counsellors.
For information on admissions to our Spanish rehab center please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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