Signs, Definitions And Ways To Step Out Of Workaholism

Workaholic Epicantus Pixabay Kristina Kral
Workaholic at Work


Workaholics live for their work. Workaholics don’t work to be able to live in the first place.

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Understanding the Dynamics of Workaholism

Workaholism is a soul-destroying addiction that changes people’s personality and the values they live by. It distorts the reality of each family member, threatens family security and often leads to family break-up. Tragically, workaholics eventually suffer the loss of personal and professional integrity. […]

Author: Barbara Killinger Ph.D.


The psychology behind “workaholism”

The following video differences between “engaged” and “nonengaged” workaholics and the 2 minutes are worth watching imo:

A perfectionist attitude is implemented

“On the seventh day, even God rested.

But for workaholics, the day of rest never comes. There is always one more email to read, one more phone call to take, one more critically important trip to the office that can’t wait until Monday.”

Source: Are You A Workaholic?

Workaholics live more or less exclusively for their work; In the process quality and quantity, but not the meaning or the purpose of the work to be done, are in the foreground and a perfectionist attitude is implemented.

Source: Fritzi Wiessmann: Arbeitssucht. In: Kurt Landau (Hrsg.): Lexikon Arbeitsgestaltung: Best Practise im Arbeitsprozess. Genter, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-87247-655-5, S. 191f.

Workaholism is not a condition

Workaholism is not a condition formally defined as a mental disorder or addiction — it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Workaholism, however, does share a number of characteristics with other forms of addiction.


Also, despite their focus on work, workaholics are less productive than other employees.

Quote from:

The Bergen Work Addiction Scale – Seven signs of workaholism

If you have to admit that at least four of these statements sounds like you “often” or “always” the researchers suggest you might want to stop laughing about your overwork and consider intervention.

  • 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 or depression.
  • You have been told by others to cut down on work but you don’t listen.
  • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  • You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities, or exercise because of your work.
  • You work so much that it has negatively affected your health.

Quote from: Jessica Stilben’s article on

What it means to be a “Workaholic”:

A person who works a lot of the time and finds it difficult not to work.

Source: Cambridge Dictionary

Disturbing Happiness

Paul Thorne and Michael Johnson, authors of “Workaholism”, define a workaholic as “a person whose need to work has become so excessive that it disturbs physical health, personal happiness, interpersonal relations or the ability to function socially.”

The article on is also about four styles of a workoholic.


A person having a compulsive need to work.

Source: Collin’s Dictionary


person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits.

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Personality Traits

People identified as workaholics often ranked high in terms of these three personality traits:

  • Agreeableness – Workaholics are more likely to be altruistic, compliant and modest.
  • Neuroticism – Workaholics tend to be nervous, hostile, and impulsive.
  • Intellect/imagination –Workaholics are generally inventive and action oriented.

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Factors that lead to Workaholism

Work addiction often occurs in people who have a strong need for perfection. Low self-esteem may also play a role in the development of work addiction, since you may work harder to earn your supervisor’s approval. Other factors include: 2,3

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorders.
  • Anxiety.
  • An extremely driven, Type A personality.
  • Using work to avoid emotional pain.

Some research indicates that many people with work addiction have parents who had very high expectations of them and felt as though their parent’s love and approval was dependent upon their professional success.3

Quote from:

10 Steps to finding Balance

  1. Acknowledge you have a problem.
  2. Be accountable to someone for your schedule.
  3. Cut out half of your outside involvement.
  4. Don’t add a new activity to your schedule without eliminating another.
  5. Allow time in your schedule for doing nothing.
  6. Set a time budget and live within it.
  7. Forget quality time – it’s quantity time that counts.
  8. Cherish the time you have with your children now. It can never be reclaimed.
  9. Maintain your perspective. There’s a time for everything; maybe it’s just not now.
  10. If you’re a workaholic, get help before it’s too late.

Symptoms of workaholism often mask deeper emotional problems such as depression or low self-esteem. Consider getting outside help, either from a trusted pastor or counsellor.

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Might be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder

Workaholism, also called work addiction, is viewed as a disease that may be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Someone who suffers from workaholism compulsively engages in work despite mounting negative consequences.

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A compulsive desire to work

Workaholism, also called work addiction, compulsive desire to work. Workaholism is defined in various ways. In general, however, it is characterized by working excessive hours (beyond workplace or financial requirements), by thinking continually about work, and by a lack of work enjoyment, which are unrelated to actual workplace demands. Workaholism may be seen as a prerequisite for success, and, as a consequence, some individuals may find it extremely difficult to release themselves from work, even when they are given the opportunity to do so.

Workaholism is associated with reduced physical health and with various psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD).

Quote from Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Four Drivers Of Workaholism


These are a few of the leading causes of overwork:

  • Motivational: Workaholics are different from people who are simply highly engaged in their jobs. They don’t enjoy their work; they feel compelled to work because of internal pressures. In other words, they work because they feel like they should or ought to be working.
  • Cognitive: Workaholics have persistent thoughts about work when they’re not working, and they find it difficult to mentally disengage from work.
  • Emotional: Workaholics experience negative emotions like anxiety and guilt when they aren’t working.
  • Behavioral: Workaholics tend to work beyond what is reasonably expected of them by their organization.

As this breakdown makes clear, all these forms of workaholism can be triggered and exacerbated by different factors: internal needs, external factors, underlying personality traits, and more.

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Workaholism is a “coping strategy”

“Workaholism is a coping strategy,” says Jeffrey P. Kahn, MD, a Manhattan psychiatrist and a consultant for the American Psychiatric Association committee on psychiatry in the workplace. “It’s often a symptom of a variety of emotional problems, including underlying anxiety disorders and depression, shaped by obsessive-compulsive personality traits. The core diagnosis is often chronic mild depression.” Kahn, a psychiatric faculty member at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, says that other professionals who think workaholism is an addiction or a diagnosis in and of itself are “missing the boat.”

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Does Workaholism Fulfill the Criteria for an Addiction?

Wayne E. Oates created the term “workaholism” in his 1971 text to describe the “uncontrollable need to work incessantly,” and he identified workaholism as an addiction very similar to alcoholism [28]. He was inuenced by the work of Howard Clinebell, a pastoral counselor, who discussed overwork as an imbalance in lifestyle [29]. Oates further dened a workaholic as a “person whose need for work has become so excessive that it creates noticeable disturbance or interference with his bodily health, personal happiness, and interpersonal relations, and with his smooth social functioning” [28]. Thus, while there are several perspectives regarding workaholism, some which might suggest a productive involvement with and enjoyment of work, workaholism at least initially was coined to refer to an addictive process.
Quote from: (PDF) Workaholism: A Review. [accessed Nov 08 2018]
Three tips to avoid becoming a workaholic

1. Time management

We are paid for our time so it makes sense to spend it wisely. This might mean declining non-essential meetings or dedicating time in your calendar to accomplishing one specific task.

“With time, there’s also opportunity cost to keep in mind. If you’re spending it on a less urgent project, you can’t spend it on one that could be more impactful. And while a quick procrastination break every now and then never hurt anyone, set end goals to keep your productivity in check.”

2. Delegation

Know what requires your expertise and what doesn’t. Understand your team’s strengths and make good use of them.

“Finally, be honest about what you can take on. If you feel overwhelmed, be willing to say
no or ask for help.”

3. Set clear boundaries

Business fluctuates and there will be times when you have to stay late, perhaps
work a Saturday, or return an email in the wee hours. Just don’t make a habit of it.

“Remember why you’re working in the first place: to support yourself or your family and to feel fulfilled, empowered or professionally satisfied.”

Quote from: | accessed on December 22nd 2018

Quotes Regarding Workaholism

Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way.

Jason Fried


Do you know a workaholic? Do you assume, you are one? Are you one? Let me know in the comments 👇

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