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Tips to Overcome: Workaholism

"Workaholic" is a term we have all heard before - mostly to poke fun at our friends who are stuck in overtime - maybe they're working their butt off to save for a trip, or maybe their business is short-staffed and they're making up for it. 48% of Americans self-identify as a workaholic, but 28% of those people say that they do it out of financial need. In a paper by Grifiths, Lisha, and Sussman (2011), they indicated that approximately 10% of Americans have a true addiction to work. The casualty with the usage of the term, and the 38% difference between true addiction and self-identification statistics, lead us to believe that we may be confused about what workaholism really is.

So what is a workaholic?

Workaholics are people who cannot help themselves from working, who are compelled to work (even when they don't want to). It is an irresistible urge, much like any other addiction - it is not the same thing as loving your work, or being overworked by your company. The American Psychological Association defines workaholics as "the compulsive need to work and to do so to an excessive degree. A workaholic is one who has trouble refraining from work."

How do I know if I'm really a workaholic, or just enjoy my job?

There's a big difference between enjoying your career while still being more than ready to take a vacation, and being so engrossed in your work that it's becoming a defining feature of your personality. There are a few signs to look out for in yourself, or your loved ones, to keep workaholism at bay.

  1. You're always at work. This one is MAJOR. In terms of time, there are 168 hours in a week. If you are working a full-time job, you should only be giving roughly 40 hours during that week to your employment. 24% of your week is spent at work, and the rest of the time should be spent sleeping, relaxing, enjoying time with friends, having life experiences, etc. If you're saying no to outside experiences and spending all your time at work, there may be a problem.

  2. You bring work home with you. Whether it's finishing up a few things after dinner (which translates to a few hours of work), or checking your work emails at a concert intermission - you are never mentally far away from your job. There are always circumstances to finish up a project with a tight deadline, or to cover in emergency purposes - but this behavior should not become habitual.

  3. You work to avoid negative feelings. Work is good, and the more you work the more positively you are received by your employers. Working late? Shows them you're dedicated. What isn't being addressed is that sometimes, we work late to avoid the feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness that hit us like a ton of bricks when we get home from work. Considering that so many businesses sloganize to "leave your problems at the door", or "at home" - it makes it hard to want to go back into that space and f