Workaholism tends to be viewed a great deal more favourably than alcoholism, but both of these conditions can have an incredibly negative impact on one’s life. One of the risks for those who manage to break free of one addiction is replacing it with a new form of maladaptive behaviour. Some people would argue that it is preferable to be addicted to work than alcohol, but the reality is that if individuals in recovery engage in any type of maladaptive behaviour, it would put them at high risk of relapse.
Does Workaholism Even Exist?
One way to define an addiction would be to say that it involves engaging in a behaviour despite the obvious negative effects of doing so. The problem with the word ‘workaholism’ is that it tends to be used to generally describe anyone who works hard. There is also the fact that many view the description of ‘workaholic’ as a positive trait.
The danger with workaholism is not that the person is working hard to do well in their career but that they are engaged in a type of compulsive behaviour. Like other addictions, it is all about trying to escape unpleasant feelings and things in life that the person does not want to face. It can also be the case that the individual is almost physically addicted to an adrenalin high that can be created by working in a high-pressure environment.
Why is Workaholism Dangerous?
Working hard is almost universally viewed as a positive human trait so what could possibly be wrong with being obsessed about work? The problem with workaholism is that it is far more than just working hard; it is about doing so as a form of escapism. Some of the dangers associated with the behaviour include:
- neglecting other areas of his or her life, such as family and friends
- having serious problems that are not being dealt with
- being a form of addiction substitution
- putting the individual at higher risk of relapse back to addiction
- leading to burnout
- the stress involved in this type of obsession can lead to physical and mental health problems
- as long as the person is involved in this type of avoidance behaviour, he or she is unlikely to develop emotional sobriety (this can be one of the real joys of recovery)
- making reckless choices that could ruin the lives of others as well as themselves.
Signs of Workaholism
Individuals who have become addicted to work can be as much in denial as those who are addicted to alcohol. There is usually plenty of evidence of the problem though, including:
- inability to switch-off from work at the end of the day
- taking work projects on holiday
- always arriving in the office early and being the last one to leave at the end of the day
- feeling uncomfortable on days off (like not knowing what to do with oneself)
- people complaining that you are too focused on work
- becoming defensive when others question your work habits
- losing interest in hobbies
- always seem to be talking about work
- most of your goals in life are related to work.
If you have some of these symptoms then it may mean that you have switched from one addiction to a new one. It is vital that you restore some balance to your life. There are now many resources to help those dealing with work addiction, and you can also seek support from your therapist or fellowship group.