Coping With Workaholism

June 14, 2016

by Dan Solin

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We all know people who could be described as “workaholics” – those who are compulsively involved with work and seem unsatisfied with their lives. Financial advisors, as independent business owners, are particularly vulnerable. A number of strategies will help you cope with the overwhelming drive to work.

Workaholism is more prevalent than you may think. Some estimates indicate that it affects as many as a third of the working population.

Symptoms of workaholism

A comprehensive review of the literature on workaholism by Steven Sussman, a professor of preventive medicine and psychology at the University of Southern California, found that the term originated in 1971 and was used to describe an “uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” It has been called an addiction similar to alcoholism.

According to Sussman, clinicians use what they consider “warning signs” of workaholism to screen those in need of treatment. These include rushing and staying busy, a need to control, perfectionism, problems with relationships, work binges, trouble relaxing, “tuning out” the present due to preoccupation with work, impatience and irritability, feelings of inadequacy and self-neglect.

Negative effects

Being a workaholic has a litany of negative consequences, including increased marital discord, less effective communication and strained relationships with children. Workaholics are likely to experience more “burnout” than their non-workaholic peers. Burnout can manifest itself as a lack of control, emotional exhaustion, weight gain, anxiety and depression, among other symptoms.

Professional treatment options

If you self-identify as a workaholic, Sussman suggested some treatment options you can consider:

  1. Join Workaholics Anonymous, which uses the model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous. It treats workaholism as a disease. Spouses participate in the program.
  2. Find a cognitive therapist who has expertise in treating workaholics. A competent therapist will help with setting realistic goals, adjusting the work-life balance, problem solving and time management.
  3. Consider other forms of intervention, like group or family therapy, or a technique known as “motivational interviewing.” According to Sussman, this involves a process through which therapists help clients to clarify goals and alter their behavior.

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Coping With Workaholism
Workaholism