The What, Whys and How of Workaholism

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I was trying to figure out what was going on the past few days, I felt like something was wrong somewhere but I couldn't put a finger on it. And then something just popped up out of my head: I might be a workaholic.



What is Workaholism?

In 1971, the term was coined by Wayne Oates, a minister, and psychologist who described it as: 

“The compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly.”

The word workaholic though is said to have first appeared as a pun alluding to Alcoholics Anonymous on April 5, 1947 in Toronto Daily Star, a news publication in Canada.

Merriam Webster defines a workaholic as someone who works compulsively. For some people, this means they enjoy what they do, for others, it's not because they like or love doing it at all. Compulsively working means you feel like you have to or should do anything or work on something almost all the time. That is a clear sign of an underlying mental health issue.


(Photo credit via Pixabay)


As quoted from an excerpt of Morley D. Glicken's book:

Workaholism means that you value work over any other activity, even when it negatively affects your health and family, as well as the quality of your work. 

The Wikipedia article is also spot on in describing what a workaholic feels. Workaholics feel the need to be busy all the time even if it means it is not necessary or it's unimportant to do as long as one is doing something or anything. 

Personally, I prefer to work on productive stuff, if I'm not doing anything productive I eventually get anxious and depressed and say hello to existentialist thoughts. It sucks really when you only think about what to do and what should be done or what you should be doing when in fact you should enjoy the time doing nothing too by relaxing and just lazing about on your free time and having fun being alive.


(Video credit: Seeker via YouTube)




♦ How to Know if You're a Workaholic ♦

I have never thought of myself as a workaholic, ever, until today. Today I was thinking what my purpose in life is. (See? Existentialist thoughts!) And then I asked myself why do I feel like I don't have any real purpose, now that I have a lot of free time to do anything I want. Suddenly out of my very many speeding thoughts it popped out of nowhere: I might be a workaholic. 


(Photo credit via Pixabay)


To check if I indeed was one, I turned to search engines. Lo and behold, almost everything written about workaholism sounded all too familiar to me, except for the part that it made me neglect family and social obligations. But then again, I have always preferred to do engaging work and productive activities rather than any social or familial obligations. Hmmm, I think I also treat social activities as something to do sometimes rather than a social event.

(Video credit: Jay Com via YouTube)


Of course, it is better to get diagnosed by a doctor for more clinical tests maybe or find online questionnaires/quizzes to see if you do have it. Try this one from workaholics-anonymous where if you answer yes to at least three questions then it already makes you a workaholic however mild or serious your condition may be.

Here are some ways to know if we are workaholics:


1. You think of and do some kind of work often even when on vacation or anytime you are not working on anything.

what_causes_workaholism(Photo credit via Pixabay)


Bryan E. Robinson, PhD, a healthcare professional and author, quotes the following:

I always say that the difference between someone who's a true workaholic and someone who's just a hard worker is that the workaholic is on the ski slopes dreaming about being back at work, and the hard worker is in the office dreaming about being on the ski slope.

If your family or friends keep complaining you don't have time for them or maybe they get annoyed when you're absent or late to any family/social gathering or busy all the time even when you're with them then that's one sign you're already a workaholic.

When you're young, you don't notice that you work too much, as you grow older you finally notice something when you feel something's wrong but can't put a finger on it until you get a rude wake-up call from other people or your own body.


2. You rarely go on vacation.

When was the last time you went on a holiday break? Unless you travel all the time and work in the travel industry do you remember the last time you truly enjoyed being on vacation, taking a rest and having a good time relaxing?

Maybe this Querlo chat can make you think more of it.


Actually just answering the first question of the chat will already let you know if you are one or not. If you always find ways to stay and work on something instead of going out and seeing the world and its wonders then clearly something is wrong somewhere.


3. You have trouble delegating or prefer to work alone.

This might mean you don't trust other people or maybe you just like to keep doing everything on your own. Bear in mind we cannot do everything on our own. Well yes we can use the internet to find a way to do anything but there are other people better at doing something more than you. You are better at doing something more than others.

hard_work_vs_workaholism(Photo credit via Pixabay)


If you are a leader or an entrepreneur and you don't delegate much or assign anything to anyone then that's already a workaholic sign. If you are an employee and not in any leadership position, if something is a task for you alone and you get stuck at what you are doing for a long time and don't ask for any help or get angry when someone helps you, then that's another red flag.

Hey there's also a Querlo chat bot for this one, check to see if you're a team player or not. Actually, it's more of if you like sports or not though but it can somehow help you find out if you engage in sports/leisure activities or not.


4. You get anxious, depressed and/or guilty when not doing anything.

So you're not working anymore and you suddenly find yourself restless, anxious, depressed or guilty for having nothing to do.

workaholic_definition(Photo credit via Pixabay)


It might happen out of a change in habit and/or you still want to earn money or just because you really like and prefer to keep yourself busy, so anytime you're not doing anything work-related or productive thing, it makes you feel incompetent and useless. Hey welcome to the club. 

ADHD and anxiety are two of the mental health issues that are strongly linked to workaholism, aside from obsessive-compulsive behavior and depression. (Maybe we need to really spend more time outside our heads if that's the case.)


5. You bring your work home or find ways to make work part of your life all the time.

overworking(Photo credit via Pixabay)


People say we should never bring work home. If you do bring your work home or if you actually work from home then that can become a problem. When you work at home, there's no clocking out until you want to clock out. When do you even clock out if you own your time and you have no boss at home but yourself?

Also what better way to earn money than turn your hobbies into work or a career, right? Other people become successful when doing it, so why can't you? You're no different than the rest, you like doing your hobbies so why not turn it into a source of income too right? Do it on top of your job, why not, right?


6. You often experience job/work burnouts.

If you work hard continuously, or do something until you get it or finish/achieve a goal and then you get burned out from doing it then you are a workaholic.

burnout happens when you don't want to do anything of the same thing you've been doing a lot before. You get really tired and drained physically and emotionally from doing it or after you've finally done it that you'd rather do something else than what caused your burnout.

signs_of_a_workaholic(Photo credit Pixabay)


If you find yourself experiencing this all the time or notice it happening more often than you like then hey, it might be something else or you're a work addict too!




♦ Traits that Make you Succumb to Workaholism ♦

A job or any kind of work alone will not turn you into a workaholic but having all or some of these traits will surely do you in.


(Photo credit via Pixabay)


1. Perfectionism, Type A personality and/or Narcissism

Nobody is perfect. If you strive for perfection for most of the things you do and want to be the best at whatever you do or become part of,  you're really part of the club. When you find yourself one-upping other people all the time to be considered the best at something then you get a ticket to the workaholic anonymous club. Thinking you should be or are way better than everyone else all the time isn't going to be healthy in the long run.

There's also a sample Querlo chat here to see if you prefer to win all the time but it's more about learning who you are and what your status in life is.


2. Genetics or parental/familial influence

Sometimes it's just got something to do with your genes and/or how you were raised. If your parents (or even grandparents) are workaholics then you might not fall far from the tree. If growing up you felt like you had/have to excel and be better than everyone then you're setting yourself up to be a workaholic once you get a job or start a business.

Also if you began doing things on schedule even as a kid, and keep piling it up then hey that's a clear sign of being a workaholic. And if you still keep doing it, or much more of it until much later in your life well you know what you are now.


3. Have issues with intimacy or being close to other people (social pessimism)

burnout_reason(Photo credit via Pixabay)


If you prefer to work than deal with emotions or emotional pain then hello workaholic, how you doin'? If you're also an introvert then it'll definitely make you prone to doing things more than dealing with people too.

If you also look at life more as half empty than half full or full of wonderful opportunities then you are giving yourself another ticket to being a workaholic.1


4. You're always hungry for more money.

workaholism(Photo credit via Pixabay)


Does this mean if you're always looking for ways to earn money, you're greedy? Perhaps. Or you just have a family to feed. If you're single though or married with no kids and you keep most of your money to yourselves but find you can't grow it or even save or keep it then this will most likely make you worried about growing old poor and penniless and so you will keep on working all the time.

Working too hard for the money can make us work addicts. Work addiction is different from just working hard.

If you already have plenty of money but still feel compelled to work all the time then clearly earning money is not the problem.



Now the question is, how do we stop being workaholics and live better lives? Find out in my next blog. :)


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