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Addiction to work- how to recognise it and treat it?

Work addiction- what does it imply?

Workaholism (work addiction) is a psychological dependence, consisting of the compulsory need for work, at the expense of other activities until the complete physical and mental exhaustion and break down of import_ant relationships.

Workaholism causes lack of balance between work, rest, social life and hobby.

Person who is addicted to work fells loss of control over his or her life, internal pressure to achieve and constant lack of satisfaction with work. This in turn implicates further involvement in work, often beyond strength.

Addiction to work alike any other addiction is characterized by a strong denial of having a problem, deepens over time and causes more and more damage in addicted person's life.

People who like to be over engaged in work usually have a strong need for control, high level of insecurity, inability to cope with emotions and they avoid close relationships. Work often becomes a substitute for better self-esteem.

Diagnostic criteria of work addiction

According to the International Classification of Diseases ICD-10, to diagnose workaholism, a person should meet three of the following criteria:

  • increased commitment to work - workaholic spends more and more time and takes on increasing number of tasks
  • thinking is totally focused on work - an addicted person shows no interest in anything that is not related to work
  • loss of control over a person's behaviour - an addicted person is not able to assess how much time she or he spent working and how many tasks he or she completed
  • inability to abstain from work - workaholic is unable to stop working. When addict stops working, he or she feels tense and anxious
  • reduction of job satisfaction - increasing involvement in work does not lead to increased satisfaction from work
  • relapses can occur, also health problems and break down in social life.

Why does work addiction is easily to deny?

Workaholic is the only addiction that despite the negative consequences, rarely cause shame. People addicted to work are prises by their employers. Also, employers often do not realize the seriousness of the problem, benefiting from having such an effective employee.

However benefits, are only temporary.

Inevitably in time addicted to work person becomes less effective and more stressed.

How would you know that we are dealing with an addict not just a person who passionately likes her, his work?

If you notice the following, you should be alarmed:

  • you are constantly busy, work in a hurry
  • you feel a strong need for control of your work and work of others, setting very high standards
  • you observe that you getting more perfectionistic and more frequently feel like a failure
  • you see increasing difficulties in close relationships - there are two reasons for these problems: the first is putting work over relationship with others, the second treating relationships as a waste of time that could be devoted to work. Both reasons show that addiction is becoming more severe
  • you feel very burdened and tired from work - too many tasks you take on causes a decrease in energy and a decrease of control over your body - for instance "falling asleep from fatigue"
  • you can't relax - continuously thinking about work and feeling guilty when you don't have anything work related to do
  • you become impatient - especially in situations which require you to slow down, for instance while waiting (e.g. queue in the shop, traffic jam, etc.) causes increase in tension and nervousness. There are also headaches, muscle aches, increased blood pressure and fatigue - from tension
  • your self-esteem is unstable - a workaholic self-esteem depends on successes at work. It fluctuates from very high, when he or she highly achieving and very low when experiencing failure
  • you gradually neglect yourself- an addict stops taking care of health, proper nutrition and rest. It leads to psychosomatic disorders.

Where to go for help and how does it work?

Person addicted to work can avail of individual or group psychotherapy.

The first phase of psychotherapy should lead to an understanding of the mechanisms of this addiction.

Psychotherapists help addicts change the non-adaptive beliefs about self-esteem, accept oneself, delegate duties, reduce underlying anxiety, shame, and fear (without resorting to compulsive behaviour), plan time to relax, create realistic goals at work, discover, satisfaction outside of work, deal with emotions and problems avoided by working extensively, build deeper, more satisfying emotionally relationships with family and friends.

The first step to start a journey of recovery from compulsive work is admitting that a person has a problem with addiction and does not have a control over it.

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