How Serena House Can Help

What are the signs of being a workaholic

Researchers in Norway have come up with a checklist to diagnose workaholism.

The seven-question test called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS), modelled on diagnostic tests already used for traditional addictions.

If you have to admit that at least four of these statements sounds like you ‘often’ or ‘always,’ the researchers suggest you might want to take overworking seriously and consider seeking help.

  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression.
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work but you don't listen.
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  6. You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities, or exercise because of your work.
  7. You work so much that it has negatively affected your health.

What is workaholism?

If you're among the nearly one in ten seeing serious negative impact on your life as a result of overworking you may need to consider the best way to get help.

The term ‘workaholic’ was coined in the 1970s, and was originally defined as anyone who toiled away for more than 50 hours a week. Today, this is a standard week for many of us in the UK, with laptops and smartphones blurring the lines between home and office.

We are also working in an environment where we worry about job security, with a string of recessions, more people self-employed than ever before and bosses placing more demands on their staff.

What we’ve ended up with is a culture of ‘presenteeism’, where we no longer have clear boundaries between work-life and our leisure and home life. This can lead to a breakdown in relationships as friends and family get fed-up with the workaholic spending time working instead of with them, be this on holiday or missing important events like weddings and funerals. Workaholism can also be damaging to your mental and physical wellbeing.

However, the term workaholism doesn’t just apply to a paid job, many perfectionistic homemakers and students suffer from this serious affliction.

The dangers of over-working to your health

Outwardly workaholic’s can look healthy and seem to thrive on stress. However, often they struggle to juggle all the extra responsibilities they have taken upon themselves and stress builds.

For example, in France, the government has acknowledged studies that show it’s the expectation of having to check your messages that causes the strain, and has urged employers not to ask their staff to do so out of hours.

Eventually, deadlines won’t be met or work won’t be done properly and this can trigger an emotional and mental breakdown.

As work is essential for our well-being, and integral to our identity. We suffer profound emotional distress when we lose a job, or cannot do our work for whatever reason. And this can trigger mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

There are implications for your physical health too. Workaholics are on what scientists call constant alert where the body is primed for action. Being in this state requires the body to be flooded with hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, and studies have shown that if these are constantly high, they can have a detrimental effect on the heart and result in raised blood pressure and stomach ulcers. You are also more prone to chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes obesity and cancer.

Emotional causes of workaholism

    As well as environmental factors like stress or a traumatic event such as a bereavement or job loss, scientists have also identified childhood causes of workaholism.  

    Many workaholics are forced too quickly into adult responsibilities because of situations they experienced while growing up, such as a parent's illness, a death in the family, or separation of the parents. Others come from families where there is a doing-performance-oriented value system where conditional love is granted if the child exceeds expectations, and makes the family proud.

    They tended to be the good students who worked hard and spent less time playing, so never had the opportunity to have a carefree childhood. This can result later in life as creating these overly- responsible adults who find it difficult to get the balance right between work and leisure.

    Treatment for addiction

    The compulsive nature of being addicted to work can often mean that you don’t listen to people who say you should stop. So that by the time the ‘internal chaos’ of taking on too much has got out of control and you can no longer cope, symptoms like acute anxiety, panic attacks and chronic insomnia are already established.

    The need to be competent and complete your work will fuel this addiction, so it’s difficult to break the cycle unless you step out of it for a while. This is where a total detox at Serena House residential clinic can help.

    Here an integrated team of doctors and therapists can offer support around the clock so that you can take the first steps to taking back control of your life, and start to feel better. One of our leading psychiatrists, Dr Robert LeFever was the first to identify ‘Compulsive Helping’, or the need to be needed, and for others this is taken one step further with the need to be in control.

    Treatment at Serena House may involve a digital detox, as well as learning cognitive behavioural skills for preventing and coping with depression.  The experts will use the tools that suit you best to build up self-esteem, and help you let go of guilt and recognise again what it is you value, so you can learn to set boundaries and lead a healthier and balanced happy life.

    Serena House is a private work addiction clinic in the heart of London that treats workaholism

    Book an Appointment

    Talk to one of our counsellors on 020 3582 4288.