Living with a Workaholic

A workaholic is a person who is addicted to work, and who continues to work compulsively even at the expense of family, friends, rest, personal health, leisure time and other non-work activities. Like most other addictions, workaholics are compelled to engage in the behavior regardless of the adverse consequences.

Unlike drug or alcohol addiction, however, workaholism carries no social stigma and people consider work addiction a “safe” addiction. In fact, hard work, even when it’s compulsive, is admired and rewarded by society and the world at large. The disorder isn’t limited to paid positions, and housewives, students or even volunteer workers can also become addicted to work. According to Forbes Magazine, education, gender and marital status are not factors, although parents are more likely to be workaholics than people without children.

Workaholic or Hard Worker: What’s the Difference?

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a workaholic and a hard worker. A hard worker is able to maintain a healthy balance between work and other aspects of life, unlike a workaholic, who is continually obsessed with work and can’t stop. If a workaholic is unable to work, he may experience panic attacks, anxiety, depression or insomnia.

Workaholics choose work over time with family or friends, including planned social or family events, even when the task doesn’t demand that level of attention. They are unable to relax even when they’re at home because they’re constantly connected to the mobile phone, email, or texts at all hours of the day and night. The line between work time and non-work time is blurred.

Work Addictions are Hard on Relationships

If your partner or family member is addicted to work, you know that the disorder is extremely hard on relationships. You may be tired of playing second fiddle to a job, or of making excuses for your workaholic loved one. You may feel lonely, angry, jealous or resentful; and you may be labeled as judgmental, complaining, needy or unsympathetic. Workaholics are often in denial about the disorder. They may claim the job is extremely demanding or that they are working to fulfill financial obligations, even when the compulsive work is obviously self-imposed. They find it very difficult to delegate work to other people.

Coping with a Workaholic Family Member

Like other addictive disorders, it’s up to your work-addicted friend or family member to admit the problem and to make a decision to change or seek help, possibly in the form of addiction treatment or rehab. However, there are strategies that may help you cope:

  • Don’t blame yourself; you didn’t cause the work addiction and it isn’t your fault.
  • Continue with your regular activities and don’t allow the problem to stop you from enjoying life.
  • Seek counseling if you feel overwhelmed with feelings of anger and hurt, or talk to a trusted friend or family member.
  • It’s okay to let the workaholic know how the problem is affecting you, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can change the person.
  • Don’t nag or cajole your workaholic loved one. It doesn’t work and it will probably make matters worse.
  • Find healthy ways to express your anger and resentment and don’t hold your feelings in. For example, vent your feelings in a private journal or write a letter to your work-addicted friend or family member, and then destroy the letter.
  • Don’t engage in activities that enable the addiction and prevent the work-addicted person from facing the consequences of her actions. Don’t plan your schedule around the workaholic and don’t put your life on hold. For example, don’t wait dinner or cancel planned activities.

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