One Needs to distinguish between the hard worker and the workaholic:

  • The workaholic not only works hard but also sets impossibly high standards and is beset by a sense of never being good enough.
  • The workaholic’s need to please others is a driving force that prevents him/her from noticing the impact of overworking on his/her own health and well-being.
  • He/She has a strong need to control other people and situations, and he/she finds it difficult to delegate responsibilities. “If I want it done well, I have to do it myself,” is a characteristic workaholic belief.

Moving from task to task, deadline to deadline, the workaholic feels most alive when totally immersed in a project or dashing between several projects.

The workaholic may become addicted to the adrenaline rush generated by dealing with a crisis.

The workaholic uses work to escape from difficult feelings and in this process loses awareness of her desires and needs.

Workaholic Therapy

A Life Out of Balance

The workaholic life is characterized by a striking lack of balance.

The workaholic gives himself little time to develop and enjoy personal relationships.

Caring for herself is low on her priority list, and health problems are often ignored until they become debilitating.

Moving from task to task, deadline to deadline, the workaholic feels most alive when totally immersed in a project or dashing between several projects.

The workaholic may become addicted to the adrenaline rush generated by dealing with a crisis.

The workaholic uses work to escape from difficult feelings and in this process loses awareness of her desires and needs.

The family members and friends of the workaholic experience themselves as a lower priority than his/her work, and this experience frequently erodes relationships.

Treatment of Work Addiction

Confronting the workaholic will generally meet with denial.

Co-workers, family members, and friends may need to engage in some type of intervention to communicate the effects of the workaholic’s behavior on them.

They may enlist the help of a therapist who works with workaholics to assess the person and recommend treatment options for work addiction.

Therapy may begin by exploring childhood experiences since the workaholic’s rigid beliefs and behaviours are formed in childhood. The work addict has often taken on parental responsibilities as a child to manage a chaotic family life or to take refuge from emotional storms, or physical or sexual abuse.

An important step in workaholism treatment is to establish the workaholic’s right to give attention to his/her own health and well-being, rather than constantly responding to others’ needs. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will assist him/her to examine the rigid beliefs and attitudes that fuel overwork.

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

Clearly, abstinence from work is not a realistic goal. Sobriety involves changing one’s attitudes and behaviors. In treatment for work addiction, the workaholic develops a moderation plan that introduces balance into life, including a schedule that allows time for physical health, emotional well-being, spiritual practices, and social support. Setting boundaries between home and work are critical, as is scheduling daily and weekly time for self-care, friendships, and play. Each day, the recovering workaholic makes time for a quiet period, for prayer or meditation, listening to music, or engaging in another “non-productive” activity.

Workaholics Anonymous for Support

Meetings of Workaholics Anonymous, a 12-step program, can provide support and tools for recovery. Medication may also be helpful. In some cases, attention deficit disorder (ADD) underlies workaholism. Assessment by a psychologist can clarify whether ADD or ADHD is a factor. If anxiety or depression is a contributing factor, medication may help to provide a more stable emotional climate as the workaholic makes the needed behavioral changes.

The work addiction treatment can also provide an occasion for the co-workers, family members and friends to examine themselves. These people, possibly with the help of a therapist, may participate in group sessions where they reflect on ways that they may be encouraging the person’s overworking. 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 does not allow for the normal successes and failures of human life? As the others who surround the workaholic examine their own lives, these people will be better able to support the workaholic as he/she continues his/her recovery.

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