Understanding a Workaholic

Work is a blessing, whatever type of work we do. We can find satisfaction and self-esteem through performing any task well. Hard work is a worthy character trait. But sometimes, when a good thing gets out of balance, it can become a bad thing. This is true for the workaholic. A healthy commitment to doing something very well can morph into perfectionism which then becomes an obsession and ends in narcissism.

The workaholic is driven by the desire to achieve and earn approval from others. This drive is so strong that it becomes a consuming black hole sucking everything extraneous into its void. The workaholic is not content to set and achieve goals and perform well. The sense of control and power that comes through doing well at work (whatever that work may be) becomes a source of addiction from which the person cannot break free. Because of this, any variables attached to work become a source of stress to the workaholic.

The workaholic feels compelled to control those variables in order to maintain a sense of security. This intense need to exert control over every potential variable leads to stress and excessive worrying about things entirely out of their control. The person may behave impulsively to try and take control or they may shift blame, rationalize or dissociate from anyone or thing which threatens their perceived control. Obviously, relationships suffer in this sort of climate. The workaholic cannot see how they are damaging relationships because their tunnel-vision only allows them to see what contributes to their work success and failures are not their problem.

For a time, this single focus on work and achievement can produce adrenaline rushes. The person will work harder and longer to experience those feelings repeatedly. However, the body eventually will become exhausted by such narrow and demanding thinking. As work ceases to be the focus of adrenaline and the surges of positive energy wane, their sense of control ebbs and anger takes over. The workaholic begins to see the cost of their narcissism in broken relationships and lost opportunities. This may drive the workaholic to bury themselves in more work to escape painful realities.

When thinking and behaving get out of balance, trouble ensues. The hard worker is the person who is able to strive for a high goal while keeping relationships along with the need for rest and fun in proper perspective. With counseling and support the workaholic can retrain his/her thinking to include others and can regain a healthy perspective. Addictions of every kind are powerful, but recovery is possible.

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