Work Addiction


This is probably the most under-diagnosed compulsion, probably because of the age in which we are living.  “He works hard for his family”,  “All her income goes to support fees at the best schools”, “She’s always thinking of others”, “No deadline is too much for him” – these are usually said with admiration.

It could probably also be said “He never sees his children” or “She has no energy to play with her children or help with homework”, for that is the other side to it.

Britain has the longest working week of any country in Britain and the fewest public holidays.  So there is not a lot of cultural encouragement for moderation.

Instead, many lucrative jobs reward punishing working weeks with enormous bonuses.  Other big corporations have onsite dining rooms, massage therapists, gyms, showers, sports teams, and even psychotherapists, all to ensure the worker never has to leave the office!

These companies look to recruit employees with certain characteristics, and these fit nicely characteristics we find in the work addict.

  • family background where only achievement was recognised
  • critical parents
  • parents who themselves were work addicts
  • family where the child is seen as their future
  • a belief that they are only as good as what they produce
  • perfectionists
  • financial insecurity, whether a fact or not
  • control is paramount

These individuals are fear-driven.  Anxiety and low self esteem are ever-present.

There is no connection to the Authentic Self.   Relationships suffer but so does mental and physical health.  Depression is never far away.  The lack of moderation in work  invites other compulsions (“work hard, play hard”).  Constant stimulation of the adrenals leads to exhaustion, burn-out, heart attacks.

Pleas by spouses to work less actually threatens the work addict with the loss of his one route to esteem.  By treating it as a result of codependence underlying driving forces are unearthed and new messages taken on.

Reading suggestion:  Chained To The Desk by Bryon Robinson