Defining oneself as a workaholic can be difficult, since the condition itself is not always well-defined. A physician working 70 hours a week may be less of a workaholic than a factory worker working 40 hours a week. The physician may have an active social life outside of work, while the factory worker may dread the idea of going home after a shift.
For a true workaholic, work becomes a compulsion and possibly even an obsession. Workaholism cannot be measured in raw hours or job satisfaction. This person may or may not find fulfillment through work, but feels compelled to perform nonetheless.
One of the main differences between a motivated worker and a workaholic is perspective. A well-adjusted worker realizes that his job is only one element of his identity. Once the work is done, the workplace is replaced with a fulfilling home life.
For a workaholic, on the other hand, her job title becomes a much larger percentage of her identification. There is no such thing as "leaving the workplace" — there is work and there is a very long break. He or she usually has difficulty dividing work life from home life.
Some people may consider someone who works extremely long hours to be a workaholic, but that has not proven to be entirely true. Certain occupations require a significant time commitment, such as the medical or legal professions, but this condition is not defined by the raw number of hours spent at work. A workaholic is more likely to volunteer for overtime hours or agree to take on a large project late in the week. Salaried employees may feel an obligation to work long hours, but a workaholic often feels extremely anxious or depressed if he does not work until exhausted.
One self-test to determine whether you are a true workaholic is to observe your behavior outside of work. Make a mental note of how many work-related conversations you start with other people. Do you insist on discussing the poor performances of your co-workers or employer? Is your sleeping disrupted by work-related thoughts? Do you find yourself driving by your workplace during off-hours? If so, you may very well be a workaholic, or at least one in training.
Unlike an active alcoholic or substance abuser, a workaholic is not automatically penalized for pursuing his or her addiction on the job. The addiction is the job. Company policy may prohibit alcohol or drugs on the premises, but it doesn't always address performing too much work. Counseling this person often requires sensitivity on the part of the employer, since losing such a motivated employee could be detrimental. A true workaholic may need to seek professional counseling in order to determine the root causes of her compulsion to work.
Family and friends of an active workaholic also need to be understanding while he or she is in recovery. While many people view a vacation as a welcome release from responsibility, a person with this condition who is not working is similar to an active alcoholic who is not drinking. Artificial abstinence is not a cure. A recovering workaholic needs time to adjust to a healthier balance between home life and work life.