There is a big difference between someone working too much for a long time and someone working out of control all the time. What is the border between the two? Why do we get addicted to working? Working hard at a given time and getting good results is a sign of success in today’s modern societies. But being labeled a workaholic is often not something to be proud of. In some cases, obsession at work is accompanied by a series of other problems. Health, relationships, and even the quality of work can be affected and damaged by overwork. Of course, this often comes with hefty costs.
The fundamental problem here is that workaholics are less productive than their colleagues who work more healthily. Too much work makes a person need counselors and other support groups for years, and this addiction can be fatal. In early October 2016, the Japanese government announced that one-fifth of overworked Japanese are at risk of death from overwork.
Overwork is not only a problem in Japan. Workaholics Anonymous is the name of a 12-step program whose first international conference was held in England in 2016, and participants from all over the world were present. So far, there has not been much research on why the level of work addiction has increased in today’s societies. But in recent years, this phenomenon has attracted more attention and is treated more like a password. The American Psychological Association, which deals with diagnosing and treating mental disorders, has not yet recognized workaholism as a medical condition. But even if work addiction does not have a precise definition, its effect is related to health, the work environment, and psychological issues, so researchers have paid particular attention to it today. Recently, an excellent study was conducted by the University of Georgia, showing that workaholics are less efficient than their colleagues who have better and healthier working methods.
Another large-scale study was conducted by the University of Bergen in Norway, which showed that people addicted to work are more prone to problems such as obsession, depression, and anxiety.
When does too much work turn negative?
What might make you think someone is a workaholic? “Well, the truth is that workaholism is an obsessive state, an uncontrollable compulsion to do or even think about it.” These are the words of Brian Robinson, a psychologist from the University of North Carolina who recently wrote a study on the effects of work addiction. According to this psychologist, work addiction is not defined by hours, but, what happens inside us, makes us say whether someone is addicted to work. “A workaholic thinks about going back to work even when they’re skiing down a mountain slope, whereas a healthy employee thinks about skiing down a slope at work,” Robinson adds. ” So far, this psychologist has advised many people who have separated from their spouses due to excessive work or even resigned, and their health has been compromised; Robinson recalls a case where a patient lied to his wife about going to the gym but went to work instead.
That being said, workaholics are not necessarily the best performers. Malissa A. Clark, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, also led the team in the study that the university recently conducted and mentioned earlier. Clark says that workaholics have more stress at work, they are even less satisfied with work, and at the same time, they are not happy with life as they should be, and somehow they feel more tired and depressed.
The University of Bergen has defined a method to determine the level of work addiction using seven essential criteria. The scores are as follows:
If your score is often or always, it means that at least 5 of the following seven items should apply to you, meaning you are addicted to work.
- You think about how you can free up time for yourself to work more.
- You spend more time working than you should.
- You work to reduce your feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.
- Others have told you to stop working, but you don’t listen and keep doing your job.
- If you are prohibited from working, you will be stressed.
- You have put aside your habits, entertainment, and exercises because work and work is your priority.
- You work so much that this situation can endanger your health.
Reports indicate that workaholics have more work challenges, less physical and mental health, and even more harmful outcomes for their families. “It’s not those workaholics get positive results, although many people might think the opposite, that is, they think that workaholics are more active, competitive, enthusiastic and efficient when they’re not,” adds Ms. Clarke.
Think you need help? There are several ways you can evaluate yourself. As mentioned in the table above, Norwegian researchers have developed a method to assess your behavior, feelings, and tendencies toward work. Workaholics Anonymous working group has prepared an online questionnaire through which you can determine whether you need help or not.
Experts say the first step to solving any problem is accepting it. According to Dr. Robinson, there are many root causes of work addiction. Sometimes our overconfidence is the reason for overworking, and sometimes it is because we want to reduce our anxiety.
The drug for work addiction is an adrenaline
For 61-year-old Bob from California, the belief that he had a problem happened when his wife told him that he had woken up many times in the middle of the night and realized that she had not come home yet, and when she reached out to him, he was at work. Bob is now one of the volunteers who joined the Workaholics Anonymous task force to fix his problem. He says: “The medicine for work addiction is adrenaline. “Stress, pressure, crisis, deadlines, all of them allow the adrenaline to work, and you want to work at an explosive speed.” The problem is that working, just like eating, is not a habit you can eliminate. So how can you control this urge to do something?
Bob says that he’s learned so far that the solution is to have a plan to stick to, which is to schedule our work hours, and if something weird happens in between, we can still go back to that plan and prioritize accordingly. Another solution is to look for a consultant with expertise in this field.
However, Dr. Clarke and his colleagues believe that the most crucial problem is the few studies that still need to be more conclusive. According to this researcher, no research has yet been done to show how workaholism develops or whether there is any connection between workaholism and clinical disorders. Clark concludes that more research is needed to find and solve the root of this problem.