Workaholism – The Next American Epidemic?

workaholics workaholism

Over 10 million American citizens are currently working over 60 hours per week. Roughly 34 percent of American workers do not take any vacation days over a 12-month period of time – even when paid vacation days are offered.

Clearly, Americans tend to take work pretty seriously. And in all fairness, compromised vacation time is sometimes a necessity – as are extended work weeks and unfortunately long hours. Bills need to be paid after all, and with the ever increasing cost of living, supporting a family is no small task. However, when the hard working individual begins putting in more hours at the office than he does at home, trouble may begin brewing in numerous aspects of life. For the true workaholic, a ‘job well done’ takes priority over mental, emotional, and physical health – and overall quality of life is severely compromised. In cases such as this, much more than a paid week off is necessary. Intensive therapeutic help coupled with an appropriate support group may be the only way to overcome this detrimental and all-consuming obsession. And in some cases, inpatient treatment may be necessary.

Is My Work Ethic Out of Hand?

Working hard is quite different than being completely consumed by your work – there is no shame in putting forth 100% effort and going above and beyond the call of duty from time to time. The workaholic, however, will typically feel as if no matter how many hours he or she puts in, it is never quite enough. And for the workaholic, spending excessive time on the job is not about earning money or finally obtaining the coveted promotion – in most cases, workaholism revolves around a desperate need for self-gratification and an escape from reality. Much like the alcoholic will drink to excess in order to escape uncomfortable emotions, the work addict will turn to overexertion in the workplace in order to escape from self. By staying holed-up in a cubicle for days on end, the distress and veracity of real life can be neatly evaded. But at what cost?

Consequences of Work Addiction

Obviously, if an excessive amount of attention is being given to one specific area of life, other areas will tend to suffer. For the workaholic, interpersonal relationships take the backburner, and personal care is often harshly compromised. In fact, the divorce rate in relationships where at least one partner is a diagnosed workaholic is upwards of 55 percent. Because workaholics are rarely at home, their relationships tend to suffer immensely. Even if a diagnosed workaholic is single and does not have a family to support, his or her relationship with self will likely be devastated. Self-care is harshly neglected, and essential personal time is utterly abandoned.

Take a look at the following statistics related to the health of diagnosed workaholics:

  • 1 out of 4 workaholics will not leave their desks during their lunch break, or take any breaks throughout the day.
  • 60 percent of diagnosed workaholics stated that they spent less than 20 minutes eating lunch every day.
  • One study, conducted in the Netherlands, concluded that up to 33 percent of diagnosed workaholics experience regular migraine headaches – likely directly linked to the stresses of their jobs.
  • Over 3 percent of diagnosed workaholics experience what is being called ‘work withdrawal’ – they begin feeling physically ill when they are not at work.
  • Individuals who work an average of 11 or more hours each day are at a 67 percent greater risk of suffering a major heart attack or coronary heart disease than those who work an average of 8 hours per day.
  • Any individual working 12 hours per day on average is 37 percent more likely to sustain a work-related injury.

Additionally, workaholics tend to weigh more than the average American, and are at greater risk of developing certain weight-related disorders, such as diabetes or heart disease. How is this, if they spend less time on lunch break and barely any time at home? By allowing themselves only 4 hours to rest and recharge (assuming they put in a 12-hour workday), workaholics will tend to crave foods that support higher energy levels – usually sugary, fatty foods, exceedingly high in calories. And excessive amounts of coffee, of course. Additionally, allowing little time to prepare healthful meals often results in a quick stop at Arby’s or McDonald’s. Living on a diet of fast food and sugary coffee drinks is not very conducive to optimal health.

Workaholism – Severe Consequences

As you can see, true workaholism affects and devastates many aspects of life. It is crucial for those suffering from work-related disorders to seek professional help. In many cases, intensive therapeutic care combined with the support of a 12-step program will be sufficient, though in extreme cases, inpatient treatment must be considered. If a workaholic is simultaneously struggling with a co-occurring addictive disorder, inpatient treatment is likely necessary. It is not uncommon for those struggling with workaholism to turn to alcohol or drug abuse to help manage the overwhelming stress of devoting the majority of life to occupation.

For more information on workaholism, please feel free to contact Next Chapter today. This is one of the many conditions we expertly treat, and we would be more than happy to relate additional information regarding this specific disorder and its treatment.