I’m sure you know everything about alcoholism and other addictions, but If your answer is “not much”, then you definitely need to read this article.

By definition, workaholism is an obsessive need to work, or compulsiveness (obsession) about working, akin to obsessive compulsive disorder. Workaholism is a progressive disease, and the most socially accepted addiction in modern society! Our society is pushing us more and more towards workaholism and at the same time asking us not to be addicted to alcohol or drugs!

On the contrary, very often workaholism goes hand in hand with alcoholism and drug abuse. If you believe that workaholism is associated with a paying job, you are incorrect, for it can also be associated with people who excessively practice sports, hobbies, fitness, housework or volunteering. Apparently, a person who suffers from workaholism is a workaholic, coined from “work” + “aholic”, meaning addicted to something. Workaholic is a person who works a lot of the time, for very long hours, and has difficulty not working.

At the very beginning of this article I need to clarify that the term workaholic is very often used inaccurately, to describe an energetic person who devotes a lot of time to work. Simply, it’s not true. If that person has good relations with his family, co- workers and friends, taking pleasure on a regular basis, knows how to rest well, and refuses to work on weekends from home or at work, that person is not a workaholic. That person is a hard working person, not a workaholic. I am not writing here about hard working people, I am writing about workaholism and a workaholic person. In our everyday life, it is not so easy to recognize and understand a workaholic person. To recognize someone who is a workaholic is not so easy because of many misconceptions about workaholism. It may take a long time to understand that.

In this article I am going to make this addiction a little bit more understandable. Yes, workaholism is an addiction and a disease, and may be pleasurable to the victim, but is still addiction. It may be burdensome and troubling with harmful social behavior, and like all other addictive diseases, it is progressive. Once workaholism sets in, it progresses through stages similar to those in alcoholism and drug addiction. Like alcoholism, workaholism can have a detrimental effect on the spouse and children of the workaholic person. Since this is a progressive disease, ultimately the workaholic becomes more driven until he hits bottom. The bottom may come in the form of a serious health problem or an ultimatum from a partner, an employer, or a friend.

The philosophy of workaholism is very difficult to explain, since people always try to accuse you that you are wrong, lazy, old fashioned, uneducated or unambitious! I have personal experience with this misunderstanding when I brought up the subject of workaholism, and I had a hard time clarifying my stand. I would be curious to know your position on workaholism, after reading this article? The reality is that everyone needs to understand the real meaning of workaholism, with no prejudice or misconceptions, accepting the fact that every illness needs to be treated as soon as possible. If you still wondering why workaholism is an illness, then you need to realize that work obsession is only the outward manifestation of inner emotional disturbance. A workaholic is really a sick person, regardless if he (she) is aware of it or not.

Many people believe that our modern, western society makes many people workaholic, intentionally or not. Workaholics are praised and often promoted at work for being responsible and hard- working, or they may even be employed by a company that encourages workaholism. Unfortunately, many times the company uses praise and promotion to encourage the workaholic person to work harder, which can lead, in some cases, to addiction. Who is paying the price?

You bet, workaholics have to pay an enormous price.

What is the reason for workaholism? There are so many reasons, but some of the main ones are: competition among workers, a desire to show loyalty to the company, tight family budget, and constant demands from management and current corporate culture, which is a monumental obstacle. How to describe the characteristics of a workahoilic personality?

The workaholic person is a perfectionist, who will not accept mistakes that are a part of being human, and feels the needs to get more tasks done before he can feel good about himself. It’s very difficult for a workaholic to relax, often feeling that he must complete certain tasks.

A workaholic believes that he is the only person capable of performing their work. His interpretation is: I am the only one who is capable of doing that task! Wrong! The world will not collapse if he doesn’t work.

Workaholics over schedule their lives with unnecessarily activities, and usually they do not necessarily love their work, weird but true. The problem with the workaholic person is that they can never get enough praise, money, or get enough accomplishment to truly feel good about themselves. Their sense of self-esteem is based largely on perceptions of how others judge their performance at work, and in other areas of their lives.

The problem with the workaholic person is huge; they neglecting their health, their relationships, and their spirituality; seeing everything as work-related. Very often the workaholic will procrastinate, postponing vacations and rest. Perhaps others will feel fear, depression, anxiety, and loneliness. They do not often experience true serenity. With an obsessive desire to understand everything in their lives, which is an impossible task, they cannot allow themselves to experience emotions that they might not understand, fearing loss of control. They have the illusion that people will like them more if they appear more competent than they actually are. Here we are at the main point.

Generally speaking, workaholics are hurting on the inside, and that is the main cause of workaholism. They are not happy and satisfied people!

Everyone needs balance in life, but workaholics deny the enjoyment of a balanced and varied life, and they are concerned only with image. They think looking busy will make people think that they are important, but inside they feel the opposite. All these characteristics of workaholics are actually ways how the workaholic person copes with the pain of having lost of sense of being and of not feeling good enough about themselves. They keep busy to blot out their feelings, enjoying the adrenaline highs that come from intensity and rushing to meet work deadlines.

Workaholism is harmful and is a risky business for the human body. Overworked people lose sleep, eat poorly and survive on caffeine and cigarettes. The legacy of long days and skipped vacations has a price tag; worker attrition, loss of productivity, illness, injury and damaged relationships. Long hours can strain the body system and even the mind. Such long hours inevitably take their toll. The accumulation of stress at work and symptoms of arteriosclerosis and mental difficulties are often the result of overwork. We need to remember that hard work is healthy but overwork and workaholism can be “a gun to the head.”

Recovery from workaholism is possible. It’s a lifelong process that includes a big a help from the workaholic person himself, his family, friends and help from the most important – the professionals.

To start the process of recovery is first being sincere to yourself, expressing your love to yourself! The workaholic, as everyone else, needs to understand and love himself first.
Everything else comes after that.

He needs a quiet time only for himself with his mind focusing on his mind/body connection. He needs to be busy with “being” not with “doing”.

The workaholic needs to learn to take vacations and use weekend getaways each and every weekend. He needs to rediscover his private and family life, and improve his social life. It is a huge challenge for him! Some forms of professional help are necessary for recovery.

Honestly, I am not sure how to close this topic on workaholism.

Waiting for “my inspiration” I found an excellent speech made by Anna Qunidlen, who is a novelist. Her work deals with human nature.

With parts from Anna’s speech, I will close this article hoping that you learn more about this addiction called workaholism!

“Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first. You cannot be really good at your work if your work is all you are. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office. People do not talk about the soul very much anymore. It is so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night or when you are sad, broke, lonely, or sick.

Enjoy your entire life. Not just your life at the desk. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. No just your bank account but your soul. Get a life… a real life not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you had an aneurysm one afternoon?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water…. a life in which you stop and watch… a life in which you are not alone …a life in which you are generous. Find people you love and who love you .Learn to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back. Learn to be happy. “


  1. A very good article and so true. I am widowed, have been for 6yrs. My husband became a workaholic in his early 30s.. So I lived with his problem for over 30yrs. It is an addiction, he would not start a hobby, did enjoy fishing when younger, but would not even renew his licence when I suggested this. He worked constantly, apart from Sundays, then he was obsessive about gardening on that day. My one phrase to him was “I have spent all my life for past 30yrs waiting for you to be ready to go out, take a day off etc. I booked our summer vacations, but he spent most of the time catching up on sleep. Same at Christmas too. Our 2 lovely daughters did not have a ‘Dad’ who went to Sports Day, Parents Evenings, Nativity or School Plays, he was never home in time. It was like being a single parent. Work was his life, triumph at his latest sale or deal. 20yrs ago had a spell in hospital with kidney stones, gloried in meeting a guy who became “a new customer” while on the same ward. Went back to work 4 days after surgery. “Can’t take time off” when I complained bitterly. Our relationship suffered to the point of no conversation in the evening, he had no energy left to talk or make love.
    The result of this “illness” as you say it is, 3 months after retirement, he was dead in 6 weeks, diagnosed with terminal cancer, of numerous organs, I called him the “George Best of Smoking”…
    So, no enjoyment of a retirement together, and I now
    live with the memory of a husband who worked & smoked himself to death.
    I feel for any wife whose husband who subjects her
    to his selfish pursuit of work, money and feeling important about his work because it’s the only thing in life that makes him feel good. They are very, very sad people. (and lonely, they miss out on everything that makes life happy in marriage, and family too)

  2. I have been married to a workaholic for 22 years this weekend. Coming second to any job he has had is to be expected of me, we have no relationship left, no kind words for each other, and he just keeps on working no matter how I plead. The silence when he finally comes home is unbearable for me and my self worth has been so depleted I don’t know where to go. He brings home to bacon and it traps me here. I have a part-time job that will not sustain me. This is so lonely and i’m hurting, cry all the time and he’s the last person I want to talk to about anything……help anybody!

  3. At 19 yrs old going on 20, 70 hour work weeks are the only way I can drown out the pain, as when I come home I am too tired to think – I simply hit the pillow, and when I awake it’s time to go back to work and start the process all over again.

    At my job you don’t have time to think about your emotions. There are so many people counting on you to get your job done right. I can only pride myself when I exceed production quotas for the night by 40-60%, though my body pays for it the next day.

    Why do I work so much? Well, I guess it numbs me to the pain I’ve experienced in my life. Also I’ve been through at least 8 relationships in the past 2 years that I don’t feel good enough to date anymore.

    The majority of “workaholics” at my company either “go insane”, quit, or lose a limb or die.

    I guess I fall in the first category lol.

  4. i feel i may have this problem work every day and dont have a good day unless i worked on someting evey day and it is also ruining my relationship

  5. Thanks Steve .. I’ve tried that I just get very frustrated . About not getting my stuff done . And do love my family very much and I know if I don’t change I’m going lose what I have left . I already lost a perfect and beautiful wife . I always say I’m not going work as much that my work for a week and then I find my self working 16 hr days again . I just can’t stop.

  6. Hi Matt, it’s never too late to change. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, it makes a living and contributes to the world but you need to find a way to spend time on other things. Can you arrange to spend some time with your kids? Spend more time with a friend? Get involved in some new activity? Sometimes all we need is to force ourselves into something new and different to get out a rut. It wasn’t until I was deeply depressed that I got disgusted enough with myself to make some hard decisions about doing certain things differently.

  7. I need help . I read this in bed and cried . My wife left me cuz I didn’t spend time with her and the kids . Cuz I always work day light to dark 7 days a week. When she left it killed me . I tryed to kill myself but stoped cuz I had jobs to finish but I’m never done with something . Plz help me someone. I don’t like myself anymore . The one I love is gone but I still work all the time why ???????????????

  8. Hello,
    thank you so much about writing this article. I finally have learnt now what my husband is suffering from. Since many years – but he is not even aware of it. And if I would talk about it, he would get so angry and blame me about being so lazy. He likes making me feel guilty. A lot of self-esteem is gone from me already. I wonder where my value is. My husband and I are working together and we have a business together – and it is very often very annoying. He is either hyperactive or wallowing in self-pity. I do not know what to do about this to save my own spirit. But reading this article was already quite helpful for me.
    Thanks again and regards from Claudia

  9. Understanding won’t make the problem go away but it’s a beginning.

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