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Are You a Workaholic?

You might as well face it -- you’re addicted to work. Could your workaholism be hurting you?

Workaholism: A Life Out of Balance continued...

Even when out of the office, workaholics can satisfy their cravings with cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and WiFi, which ensure that work need never be out of reach.

But blaming technology for workaholism is like blaming the supermarket for food addiction or the corner liquor store for alcoholism, says Bryan E. Robinson, PhD, author of Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them.

Robinson and other clinicians who treat patients for work-associated stress say that working hard and having easy access to work does not automatically make someone a workaholic.

"It's important to understand the context," says Edmund Neuhaus, PhD, director of the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. "If you're working to the exclusion of your family, your marriage, other relationships, and your life is out of balance, or your physical health is out of balance -- when work takes an exclusive priority to everything else, that's the more extreme end of the spectrum where it becomes a problem," Neuhaus tells WebMD.

"The preoccupation with work is really at the core of what workaholism is," says Robinson, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Asheville, N.C. "I always say that the difference between someone who's a true workaholic and someone who's just a hard worker is that the workaholic is on the ski slopes dreaming about being back at work, and the hard worker is in the office dreaming about being on the ski slope."

Workaholism is remarkably similar to alcoholism in some ways. Just as an alcoholic will hide bottles around the house and drink furtively, for example, workaholics may try to sneak in work when they think no one is looking.

"It's something that I did in the throes of my own work addiction, and when I think about it now it sounds pretty sick," Robinson says. He once hid some work papers in his jeans after his family went through his suitcase looking for his secret stash while packing for a trip to the beach, he tells WebMD.

Other key signs of workaholism are:

  • Trouble delegating work (workaholics tend to be control freaks and micro-managers)
  • Neglecting other aspects of one's nonworking life (like the dad who never has time to attend Junior's school play)
  • Incorporating other aspects of life into work (such as trying to turn a hobby into a new business)

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