No other addiction is so willingly adopted, rewarded and praised by society
as the addiction to work. It can prove quite a complicated issue, as the
individual may only be looking after their family, and trying to meet all their
needs. As children grow up, of course, their needs seem to get more and more
expensive. What good, however, is a worn out mother, father or partner? What
good if the relationship breaks up? When did a bleeding ulcer become a sign of
success? Is a seventy-hour working week a sign of efficiency?
The person may be too set in their ways to slow down, not secure enough in
themselves to say no, and/or find it difficult to delegate or ask for help. Even
Jesus Christ needed helpers and time away to rest and relax.
Workaholism, overwork or overdoing it is a big problem, nowhere more so than
in Japan where around 10,000 workers/year die from working 60-70 hour working weeks.*
This is now known in Japan as Karachi, meaning death from overwork.
Society measures us by what we do, rather than by who/how we are and what we
believe. Our job is more important than our view on global warming for instance.
Clearly some occupations are considered in a different class than others. Sadly
all this can lead us to believe that the predetermining factor to our sense of
self worth is measured by what we do. This can lead us to become detached from
who we really are.
Other myths, which make it difficult to recognize that overdoing it or
workaholism is a major problem in our society today are that: overdoing it is a
positive way of life; it is not physically or psychologically addictive; it is
not harmful to health, physical or mental; that it is always caused by high
pressure jobs or demanding family life of the 21st Century; that it is motivated
by job loyalty or by our desire to provide a decent living for our family or to
make a worthwhile contribution to society.*
Workaholism is an addictive pattern like any other addiction. Some people get
an adrenaline high from juggling four or five commitments, taking care of others
or simply of being busy or of being the first person in the office in the
morning or of being the last to leave in the evening. Maybe they think that this
is what the company expects of them, sadly this is sometimes true. Common
symptoms may also be forgetfulness or inattention, with awareness impaired by
stress and fatigue.
So what is behind this desire to push ourselves to the very limit, sometimes
risking all we have - health, family, friends. The roots are common to all
addictions, not within our fast culture or the way we were brought up, not even
within our boss, or our family. They may contribute to and/or reward our self
destructive behaviour, but the cause lies deep within us. The roots are often in
our, unfulfilled or unmet needs. The feeling within us is that we have to
achieve a certain standard, or amount of work before we can become accepted as a
person. The belief is that we are of little worth as we are, on our own. Taking
the responsibility ourselves, not leaving it with others, and finding out what
is pushing us gives us the tools to change. We may have feelings of low self
esteem, or of inadequacy, believing nothing we ever do will be good enough, the
result is that we keep striving trying to do more and better. Work may also
provide us with temporary relief from pain from a broken relationship, or from
boredom or guilt or many other feelings we may want to avoid.
Are you a workaholic? The following test was devised to help you evaluate.
Score: 1 = never true; 2 = sometimes true; 3 = often true; 4 = always true.
Total up your score, then look at the scale below.
Work Addiction Risk Test1
1. I prefer to do things myself rather than ask for help
2. I get very impatient when I have to wait for other people, or am in slow
3. I seem to be in a hurry and racing against the clock
4. I get irritated when I am interrupted while I am in the middle of
5. I stay busy and keep many 'irons in the fire'
6. I find myself doing two or three things at once, such as eating and
writing a memo
7. I over commit myself by biting off more than I can chew
8. I feel guilty when I am not working on something
9. It is important that I see the concrete results of what I do
10. I am more interested in the final results of my work than in the process
11. Things just never seem to move fast enough or get done fast enough for me
12. I lose my temper when things don't go my way or work out to suit me
13. I ask the same question, without realizing it after I have already been
given the answer
14. I spend a lot of time planning and thinking about future events,
forgetting the here and now
15. I find myself continuing to work after my co-workers have finished
16. I get angry when people do not meet my standards of perfection
17. I get upset when I am in situations where I can not be in control
18. I tend to put myself under pressure with self imposed deadlines
19. It is hard for me to relax when I am not working
20. I spend more time working than on socialising, hobbies or leisure
21. I dive into projects to get a head start before all the phases have been
22. I get upset with myself for making even the smallest mistake
23. I put more thought, time and energy into my work than relationships with
24. I forget, ignore, minimise family celebrations such as birthdays or
holidays for example
25. I make important decisions before I have all the facts and have thought
Well how did you do? If you scored:
25 - 49 = You are not overdoing it
50 - 69 = You are mildly overdoing it
70 - 100 = You are highly overdoing it
The work addiction, like any of the other addictions is a difficult cycle to
break. Like all the other addictions, however, it is possible. The first and
most difficult step is acknowledging that we are responsible and the problem is
within us, which must be resolved.
The Bible has much to say on addiction to work (for our own good). For
'Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have wisdom to show restraint. Cast
but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and
fly off to the sky like an eagle.'
Proverbs 23 v 4 & 5. New International Version. By permission.
The implication here of course, like all addictions, is that we will never be
satisfied and will always be wanting to earn more money to buy that special
item, like a butterfly that we never can quite catch, so will be our desires
* 'Work Addiction' and 'Overdoing It' - both by Bryan Robinson PhD, published
by Health Communications and available from:
Airlift Book Co, 8 The Arena, Molison Ave, Enfield, Middlesex EN3 7NJ Tel: 0208