Work addiction is an addictive pattern like any other addiction. The specific cause of a work addiction is obviously related to the person and their past. However, typically the general cause is the same as other addictions; the root is our our unfulfilled or unmet needs. The feeling
within us is that we have to achieve a certain standard, or amount of work before we can become accepted as a person. The belief is that we are of little worth as we are, on our own.
Typically, the work addict may have feelings of low self esteem and feelings of inadequacy, the result being that the person keeps striving trying to do more and better. Work may also provide us with temporary relief from pain from a broken relationship, or from boredom or guilt or many other feelings we may want to avoid.
It is also common that the work addict is driven to perform even harder and accomplish even more due to the inability to relax, feel, and smell the scent of today’s success. These intense work schedules and associated behaviors can be symptomatic of underlying issues, insecurities, and a skewed self-image. In many instances, the workaholic behaviors are self imposed, but not
based on an accurate perception of oneself. The work addict can also use work much like the alcoholic uses liquor to self medicate, manage, control and avoid feelings.
The following test (adapted from Lawyers Assistance Program of British Columbia) was
devised to help you evaluate yourself.
Work Addiction Self Test
Please rate each statement according to the following scale: 1 = never true; 2 = sometimes true; 3 = often true; 4 = always true. Total up your score, then look at the scale below.
1. I prefer to do things myself rather than ask for help
2. I get very impatient when I have to wait for other people, or am in slow moving queues
3. I seem to be in a hurry and racing against the clock
4. I get irritated when I am interrupted while I am in the middle of something
5. I stay busy and keep many 'irons in the fire'
6. I find myself doing two or three things at once, such as eating and writing a memo
7. I over commit myself by biting off more than I can chew
8. I feel guilty when I am not working on something
9. It is important that I see the concrete results of what I do
10. I am more interested in the final results of my work than in the process
11. Things just never seem to move fast enough or get done fast enough for me
12. I lose my temper when things don't go my way or work out to suit me
13. I ask the same question, without realizing it after I have already been given the answer
14. I spend a lot of time planning and thinking about future events, forgetting the here and now
15. I find myself continuing to work after my co-workers have finished
16. I get angry when people do not meet my standards of perfection
17. I get upset when I am in situations where I can not be in control
18. I tend to put myself under pressure with self imposed deadlines
19. It is hard for me to relax when I am not working
20. I spend more time working than on socializing, hobbies or leisure activities
21. I dive into projects to get a head start before all the phases have been finalized
22. I get upset with myself for making even the smallest mistake
23. I put more thought, time and energy into my work than relationships with other people
24. I forget, ignore, minimize family celebrations such as birthdays or holidays for example
25. I make important decisions before I have all the facts and have thought them through
Well how did you do? If you scored:
25 - 49 = You are not overdoing it
50 - 69 = You are mildly overdoing it
70 - 100 = You are highly overdoing it
A work addiction pattern, like any other addiction, is a difficult cycle to break. However, with help, the unhealthy thoughts and behaviors can give rise to new and healthier ones. The first, and often the most difficult step,
is acknowledging that that you have a problem and want to change.