There are many names associated with those addicted to work: the hustler, the grinder, work obsessed. Entrepreneurs wear their long work hours, dark under-eye circles and stress-induced weight fluctuations like badges of honor. Many look up to these people, who sacrifice such things as weekends and a good night’s rest, as the dedicated few willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness. They seem almost superhuman, eternally ready to be the first one in and last one out; or never ever stop. But many times, it’s personal relationships, self-care and play—all proven as necessary parts of a healthy, balanced life—that come as a price for these achievements.
What might look like an admirable work ethic can go by another name: workaholism. And although the research hasn’t been around that long, most experts agree that between 10 and 25 percent of U.S. adults qualify.
Is Being A Work-A-Holic An Illness?
Workaholism is not listed as a mental illness - at least anywhere that we could find. But it’s difficult to define and even tougher to determine exactly what it is to be a work-a-holic.
According to Wikipedia, "A workaholic is a person who works compulsively. The term originates from alcoholism. The person works at the cost of their sleep, and social functions such as meeting friends or family. While the term doesn't necessarily imply that the person enjoys their work, it can imply that they simply feel compelled to do it.
There is no generally accepted medical definition of such a condition, although some forms of stress, impulse control disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can be work-related; ergomania is defined as "excessive devotion to work especially as a symptom of mental illness".
Defining a workaholic versus someone with an incredible work ethic—say, a dedicated entrepreneur trying to launch her first business—isn’t easy. Most experts agree that it has to do with your mindset toward work. An entrepreneur must often clock long hours in the early stages of her business, but if she’s able to detach and apply the same dedication to relaxation time, she’s likely not experiencing the symptoms of long-term workaholism. Conversely, the entrepreneur who clocks long hours and still feels guilty about not accomplishing more, who obsessively checks work emails and often discusses work in casual conversation, might need to take a second glance.
Long Term Effects
Whatever the definition, the results of an unhealthy work obsession has some pretty serious long-term effects on a person and their relationships. Poor sleep, digestive issues and memory issues, increased excessive drinking and chances of type 2 diabetes are all commonly cited side effects.
Workaholism often manifests in those who struggle to find self-fulfillment, and rest their ego on a shaky foundation of social and peer approval. Struggling to delegate as leaders, they often come to believe that they are not only the best ones for the task, but the only ones.
Although the work-obsessed might seem like the most productive of a bunch, a growing body of research also shows that placing prolonged levels of strain on the brain and body lead to diminished levels of productivity over time. Those working around and under the overachiever might feel incompetent, and eventually resentful, leading to an unhealthy and even toxic work environment.
The workaholic becomes a victim of his own making, the subject of both admiration and sympathy.
Managing Workaholism (By Marine Beshanova)
If you struggle to welcome and capitalize on opportunities to recharge; if you dream about work while on vacation, and spend countless sleepless nights obsessing over minor work-related issues, you might need to make a self-assessment and consider some serious changes.
1. Do a self-checkup. Scan your brain and body for signs of exhaustion and deprivation. If you’re having trouble, reach out to a trusted friend or relative—they might be better equipped to make an unbiased assessment.
2. Talk to your partner. Workaholism doubles the risk of divorce. If the two of you observe a problem, sit down with your loved one to address any unmet needs. Map out what a healthy work/life balance looks like to him or her, and compare it with yours.
3. Log those times when you’re obsessively thinking about work. Keep track especially during scheduled times of relaxation. Consider seeking professional help to address any underlying issues that could be contributing to your impulsive work habits. Also consider joining an established support group, such as Workaholics Anonymous.
4. Put away your phone and laptop while at home. If your type of work doesn’t allow long periods of disconnection, set aside times that you’re not to be disturbed. If need be, enlist a co-worker or employee to field calls and emails during those times.
5. Write down your moments of non-working gratitude. For example, when you’re able to attend your child’s school play or spend a weekend at the lake with friends.