Am I a Workaholic?

Michael Pollick

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.

A workaholic may routinely take on extra hours or last minute projects.
A workaholic may routinely take on extra hours or last minute projects.

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.

Workaholics should take breaks and enjoy an activity such as watching TV.
Workaholics should take breaks and enjoy an activity such as watching TV.

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.

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A workaholic might struggle with separating family and work.
A workaholic might struggle with separating family and work.

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.

Workaholics may have a hard time taking breaks during the workday.
Workaholics may have a hard time taking breaks during the workday.

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.

The child of a person who is a workaholic may feel neglected.
The child of a person who is a workaholic may feel neglected.

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Discussion Comments


My husband's field does require a big time and travel commitment. However he verbally states that he hates his job! Lately he has been volunteering for extra committees that require more travel, some that take him out of the country. Of the last 15 weeks, he has traveled all or part of 10.

Whenever he goes to these committee meetings his regular work piles up until it is unmanageable. He does not have any personal relationships outside of work, doesn't call our adult children on his own, and has no relationship with his sisters who live in another state.

He is happy to engage in whatever social activities that I plan for us and enjoys other people. His response to me about the amount of work is that it is what his job requires, including the extra meetings. Knowing that I am unhappy with the travel situation, his only response is that he will quit.


I do truly love to work. My home life is not satisfying, so I may as well be productive. I may as well throw myself into something positive where I seem to be appreciated. The thing that I find is that sometimes it's hard to relax when I'm not working and I wish I were there doing something productive instead of twiddling my thumbs.

So perhaps I need to find and learn other activities that I can do to create a balance in my life because too much of one thing is not healthy. I laughed my head off when I read a question somewhere that said, "Do you find yourself driving past your workplace when you're off?" I never mind a visit, but not really, because it's too far! I daydream about it, though.

However, I think that balance is good, so I need to and will seek out activities to do so. I also need and have started to force some relaxation. I think that having a lower salaried job, needing to pay bills and having a home where my good nature is not wanted for some reason upset me the most, so I tend toward where I am appreciated.

As far as going to "meetings" and such, this is not what I choose to do when I am off of work. I think I'll deal with it myself. And if I enjoy working a lot, well then I'm happy and nobody else is sad about it.


you'll never understand how a workaholic feels.

The first time i started my business, no one cared. Family and friends even doubted whether my business would be a going concern.

Then my three figure income turned to four figures, to five and six, and so on and hopefully more to come.

Where my one man business turn to an organization, where money is never an issue, when people start to remember my name.

So i can't help myself that i love my job and passionate about it. the more i work, the more i get and is going into my own pocket.

I am on top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It is a feeling i can't describe.


My boyfriend and I just broke up because he is a workaholic. I honestly had no idea that there was such a thing -- now i know!

I kid you not when I tell you that this is a compulsion. He lets everything else in his life go just for this job. And I mean everything. He does not care about the state of his finances (and this was a major red flag because why are you working so hard).

He makes a great salary and yet he had a car repossessed, he was living in a crappy area of town. I mean, he had a good job, so I thought he had it together.

We moved in together after several months of dating and all he wanted to do was work. We never did anything, never took any vacations. his finances were in shambles because he did not pay attention. he hardly ever cleaned or took a real interest in anything besides work -- even me!

I really loved him and I cannot believe that he is this way. I feel helpless because he identifies himself with this job and I feel that the company will just use and abuse him because they don't care about people! And he doesn't realize there is a problem.

I cannot understand it.


anon7765 i think you should also get involved in her work, so that she may feel that you are taking an interest in her and in that way she may pay attention on you.


My wife has her own business and is constantly thinking about her work, and gets cranky if I suggest that she's working too much, or get upset about her checking emails when we get home from dinner and a movie.

Now that I'm already headed down the road of ruining our relationship and have made her work addiction a hot topic, how do I get her to notice it, for real, and do something?!

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