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Health & Balance

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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...

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)

Workaholics: All Work and No Play

A workaholic might seem to be every CEO's dream: an employee who comes in early, stays late, doesn't take vacations, and takes on mountains of work. But those very qualities may make the workaholic a poor candidate for employee of the month because they often have more work than they can handle effectively, don't delegate, aren't team players, and are often more disorganized than their less compulsive colleagues, Robinson says.

In addition, workaholics may refuse to take time off, even when their work performance is affected -- although here cultural expectations and financial realities may come into play.

"People are afraid to take vacations because they're afraid that with all the downsizing and the economy being what it is that they'd be the first to go," Robinson says.

"I train residents at McLean Hospital," Neuhaus says, "and I tell them, 'You have to take vacations. Go away. You're not going to be any good to me if you don't take vacations.'"

Are Workaholics Hurting Their Health?

Like other forms of addiction, workaholism can have significant health consequences, experts say, including significantly higher work-related stress and job burn-out rates, anger, depression, anxiety, and psychosomatic symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches.

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