The Dangers of Workaholism

We’re often told never to use the word “workaholic” in a job interview, and for good reason, too. While we often use the word in jest, it has a much more powerful and devastating connotation that extends to beyond simply putting in extra hours to meet an important deadline.

Workaholism, which is defined as someone who works compulsively for at least 50 hours a week, is just as a soul-destroying addiction as alcoholism and drug abuse. Like drinking and doing drugs, working extra-long hours can be a way of coping with emotional discomfort, and the effects it has on our personal and professional lives are plentifully overwhelming if left untreated.

1. Health Effects

Unsurprisingly, being a workaholic has many ill effects on your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

While workaholics feel the need to work constantly, it can simply kill you – figuratively and literally. It’s called karōshi in Japan, meaning “death from overwork,” where workers suffer fatal heart attacks or strokes on the job due to stress and starvation. But the phenomenon is not just limited to the Land of the Rising Sun: a Bank of America intern by the name of Moritz Erhardt died on the job in August 2014 after working for 72 hours straight without any sleep.

Beyond sleep deprivation, which is crucial to brain development and cognitive function, workaholism can cause further problems such as eye strain, poor digestion, stomach pains, migraines, a weakened immune system, and depression.

2. Damage to Social Life and Relationships

Simply put: your addiction to your job can cost you your personal relationships. In fact, 55% of marriages with workaholic spouses ended in divorce compared to the 16% of marriages without a workaholic spouse, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

It can also destroy families. Dr. Bryan Robison conducted groundbreaking research back in 1998, in which he discovered that the adult children of workaholics often end up in therapy with their own failing marriages or depression. While growing up with a workaholic parent, it’s no surprise that a child will feel neglected and lonely.

3. Career Burnout

Devoting yourself to your job can boost your career, but devoting too much of yourself to it can actually kill it – and fast.

Workaholics will often accept more work than they can handle, and will work frantically to finish a project and meet an impending deadline – with sloppy results. Moreover, their difficulty to work in a team or delegate tasks and entrust coworkers will no doubt cause a toxic work environment, thereby eliminating their chances of furthering their careers, while a lack of mental energy and exhaustion will indeed lead the work addict to career burnout.

There’s a thin line between being a hard worker and a workaholic. You just have to make sure you never cross that line. But if you do, know that there’s always help – you just need to ask for it.

Are you a recovering workaholic? How has that affected your life, relationships, and career? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below.