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why do people become workaholics?

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written bySenior Marketing Manager, EPAM Anywhere

Why do people become workaholics? We've all heard: "Work hard, play hard." It seems like a harmless and funny phrase. Who wouldn't want to work hard, achieve success, and celebrate it? Phrases like this one can encourage a workaholic mindset, and give it a positive connotation in western culture.

In reality, workaholism is considered a psychological disorder. Its typical symptoms include an addiction to work, dependence on work, as well as guilt, anxiety, and shame. The good news is that you can treat workaholism and re-establish your work-life balance.

This guide will discuss three workaholism causes and the early signs of workaholism.

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Why do people become workaholics: Three major workaholism causes

Workaholics compensate for personal issues, missed opportunities, and ambitions with work. Work acts as a protective shield against health issues, family difficulties, and even other addictions. There are identified reasons why people become workaholics, though, including:

1. Psychological causes

Psychological characteristics can play a crucial role in workaholism. Specialists have suggested that perfectionists, narcissists, or those with low self-esteem may be prone to an obsessive devotion to work. They may also lack hobbies and tight social connections.

One challenge is that in contrast to socially disapproved addictions like alcoholism, workaholism is often viewed positively. Workaholics who seek approval may become overly focused on work since it's a socially acceptable way to gain approval and respect from their peers.

Other psychological workaholism causes include:

  • Trying to escape from pressing issues
  • Emotional exhaustion and attempt to fill it in
  • Misfocus on an appraisal from peers and colleagues

2. Childhood influences

Another reason why people are workaholics may lie in their upbringing. A stressful childhood, being required to assume adult responsibilities at a young age, and having workaholic parents may be workaholism causes.

Workaholics may also have experienced insufficiently reliable relationships in their family, or experienced situations in which love was conditioned on performance. Work may become a compensatory mechanism to help balance emotions, replace uncomfortable feelings, and achieve a sense of a fulfilling life.

3. Work-related factors

Another answer to "Why do people become workaholics?" may be because their main source of emotional and social connection is their job.

Some people gradually slide into workaholism, working ever longer hours and constantly overtiming. This unbalanced work style then becomes a part of their personality and, as with other cases of workaholism, the affected person doesn't notice this unhealthy imbalance between life and work

Why are people workaholics, and who's at risk?

Psychologists have identified signs that may allow you to self-diagnose workaholism symptoms, including:

  • Perfectionism and binge working until you're completely exhausted
  • A busy schedule that doesn't have room for anything but work-related tasks
  • Difficulties building and maintaining social connections and relationships
  • Feeling of anxiety when you consider doing something other work
  • Ignoring physical needs like regular food and sleep in favor of work
  • Low self-esteem and feeling as though work is your opportunity to gain recognition and love

This is a very brief overview of some workaholism "red flags." For a comprehensive diagnosis, you can also take some tests used by psychologists: Work Addiction Risk Test (WART), Workaholism Battery (WorkBAT), and Dutch Work Addiction Scale (DUWAS).

Consequences of workaholism

Mental and emotional consequences of workaholism may include obsessive thoughts, impatience, irritation, poor concentration, and emotional disengagement. Physical symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, exacerbation of chronic diseases, stomach pain, loss of appetite, and decrease in libido.

Sadly, workaholism not only has negative effects on the personal lives of workaholics, but on their work as well. While workaholics may appear to be super-productive workers fully committed to their jobs and achieving excellent results, there does not appear to be any correlation between workaholism and work productivity. Workaholics have difficulty in team situations and rarely delegate, making collaboration challenging.

Generally, workaholism is related to increased work stress and burnout. A timely recognition and taking steps to address it can start the process of healing and gaining a balanced life.

How to address workaholism signs

There's no silver bullet to treating workaholism but there are treatment options. Since workaholism is a type of addictive behavior, treatments may include medication to reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and other techniques.

If you feel that you may be a workaholic, there are things you can do to help yourself get out of the relentless cycle of overwork. Learn how to stop being a workaholic, find actionable tips, and start living your more balanced life.

written bySenior Marketing Manager, EPAM Anywhere
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