What is Workaholism?

A workaholic is an individual who has a compulsive need to over work. Such people don’t feel satisfied unless they are doing something work related. The theory is that they immerse themselves in work in order to reduce anxiety and that they may have a fear of failure. This is distinguishable from those individuals who put in extraordinary effort for a limited period of time for a project, or athletes and musicians who need to practice a great number of hours. The difference is that workaholics have a compulsive urge to work as opposed to a healthy desire to work.

Causes of Workaholism

There is no consensus on what causes an addiction to work. However, researchers agree that it can be influenced by the following factors:

Family Upbringing

The individual may have have parents or other family members who emphasized over achievement and excessive responsibility, and the individual has modeled themselves after such loved ones.

Social Learning

If the individual received positive reinforcements for working extra hard at school or work as a child, then the probably learned to associate over working with positive feedback.


Individuals who are perfectionists, or have personality disorders like narcissism or neuroticism may be predisposed to workaholism.


There is some suggestion that workaholism is a type of addictive disorder. Some researchers also suggest that it is an obsessive compulsive disorder. This would mean that workaholism has genetic influences, and that some people may be more wired for a work addiction than others.


Hard work, financial success and competence are valued in most cultures, and some individuals may have absorbed that to the extreme.

Symptoms of Workaholism

American culture tends to encourage and reward hard work. This makes it quite difficult to determine if an individual is a hard worker adapting to the needs of their job, or a workaholic. If one wants to know if a work addiction exists, there are 7 criteria to look for, as per The Bergen Work Addiction Scale:

  • The individual thinks about how they can free up more time to work.
  • The individual spends far more time working than initially intended.
  • The individual works in order to minimize feelings of anxiety, guilt and depression.
  • Other people tell the individual to cut back or work, but they don’t listen.
  • Not working stresses the individual out.
  • Hobbies and leisure activities are de-prioritized due to work.
  • The individual works so much that it negatively impacts their health.

If the individual’s response to at least four of the above is ‘often’ or ‘always’, then it suggests a risk of workaholism.

It is important to know that work addiction is associated with negative consequences. Workaholics can suffer from psychological problems and stress, as well as conflicts with family members. Furthermore, workaholics can actually be less productive than those who work a normal amount.

Workaholism can be a real problem and you may not know how to deal with it. Call The Villa to find out how we can help you lead a more healthy and balanced life.