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Workaholism: Heal from the need to constantly achieve

Do you feel obsessed with getting the job done no matter what? And does that come at the expense of your physical and mental health, relationships, or perhaps even your own job? If so, let’s talk about workaholism.

As a life coach for entrepreneurs, workaholism is a very important topic for me and my clients. This toxic behavior is glorified, yet few discuss the consequences of this addiction.

In this article, we will define workaholism, explain the costs, show its connection to perfectionism and trauma, and finally, discuss remedies for this terrible illness.

First, let’s begin with talking about signs that you may be addicted to work.

Signs your are addicted to work

While having a strong work ethic and being dedicated to your job is not necessarily indicative of workaholism, there is a line between feeling good about your work, versus working to feel good about yourself. 

Here are some symptoms that may suggest you or someone you know is struggling with workaholism:

Neglect of your personal life and/or self-care

Prioritizing work over personal and social activities, hobbies, and leisure time. This can include neglecting family, friends, and other relationships due to an overwhelming focus on work.

Below are some questions to assess if work is negatively impacting your:

  • Do your loved ones not even bother trying to get you away from your work because they know it is useless? 
  • Are you working so much that nobody expects to see you for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Let’s get more specific – do you forget to eat? 
  • Do you usually inhale your meals in 5 minutes or less so that you can go back to work?
  • When was the last time you washed your hair? 
  • Do you avoid other self-care activities such as exercise, relaxation, and sleeping in favor of working?

Are you tethered to your electronic devices?

While technology can be helpful, it can also fuel workaholic tendencies. For instance, do you constantly check notifications on your electronic devices, including your smartwatch? 

Let’s get even more real. Are you unable to go to sleep without cradling your phone in your hand? If threatening to take away access to your computer can cause you to experience a full-blown breakdown, seething with rage, that is a sign of electronic addiction, which fuels your overarching work addiction.

Inability to Delegate

Growing a business is not easy. You are the CEO, bookkeeper, accountant, content manager, logistics manager and a whole bunch of other roles. However, as your business grows, if you find difficulty in entrusting tasks to others, that may signal larger problems. 

Workaholics don’t want to leave anything to chance or, I dare say, let their people learn from their experiences. Consequently, this results in delayed projects or confusion because you are the cause of bottlenecks.

Constant Need for Achievement

We all need a pat on the back and a sign to show that we are doing a good job. However, if you have an insatiable need for success and achievement, regardless of the cost to personal health or relationships, that is a sign you are slipping into the workaholic danger zone. If you cannot distinguish your self-worth from work accomplishments, that is a sign that your perspective on reality is skewed.

Regarding self-worth, in the next section, we will delve into this topic in more detail.


Equating your self-worth to your work

Too many people tie their worth to their output. For example, you may think you are worthy only if you have “X” followers, “X” bucks in the bank, “X” clients, and so on. Your worth then becomes linked to their achievements or status. 

The problem with this logic is that you will always find someone who has more followers, more money in the bank, and a whole bunch of stuff you think you need. 

Or worse yet, what happens if you get sick, lose their job, people who you thought cared about their work ignore them, or you are interested in doing something different? What happens next? 

Equating your worth to performance is no way to live. You have now become attached to things that can change in a moment’s notice. 

Read this carefully: You have worth because you are alive. It doesn’t matter what they have done, and it surely doesn’t matter what they are doing now. You have value.

Next, let’s talk about the link between perfectionism to trauma. This is important because the desire to work endlessly comes from the desire for approval or validation.

Origins of perfectionism 

Some of you are letting perfectionism ruin your life. There are rules for this and procedures for that. There are so many rules that at times, you can’t enjoy anything, including yourself. 

Perfectionism is a trauma response, where you had to be perfect to avoid being yelled at, criticized, condemned, shamed, or being ostracized. 

Even though big momma (or daddy), cousin, brother/sister, or whoever is far away, you can still hear their menacing voice in your head. They are telling you to “be perfect”, “hurry up”, “try harder”, “be strong”, and “please others”. This is tiring. 

None of us are perfect, so instead of beating yourself up, try loving yourself. Work for excellence, know what is enough, please yourself, work easy, and be open to learning.

How to recover from workaholism

We need work. But work doesn’t need to have us. If you want to heal from workaholism, you must make some intentional decisions to change your mindset and behavior. Here are some steps you can take to begin the healing process:

1. Recognize the Problem

I am a recovering alcohol and sex addict. When I first joined Alcoholics Anonymous, I learned the first step. 

We admitted we were powerless over “alcohol” — that our lives had become unmanageable.

Substitute the word alcohol for “work.”

We can’t heal from something that we don’t recognize as a problem. When you drop the self-protective barriers and admit that this is a shortcoming or problem, then you can finally start your recovery process.

2. Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Look at your calendar and assess how many hours are necessary each day. Define specific times for work and non-work activities. 

If setting time limits is hard to do, get an accountability partner and/or time management app like Self-Control that will literally shut down your apps unless it is an emergency.

3. Prioritize Self-Care

Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. Focus on activities that promote physical, mental, and emotional well-being, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Engage in meditation, mindfulness exercises, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques to help manage stress and stay present in the moment. These routines can also help break the cycle of obsessive work-related thoughts.

5. Reevaluate Your Values

Reflect on your core values and what truly matters to you beyond work. Identify and prioritize other aspects of your life, such as relationships, health, and personal growth.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Establish achievable work goals that align with your values and contribute to your long-term well-being. Avoid setting unrealistically high standards that perpetuate the cycle of overwork.

7. Delegate and Collaborate

Learn to delegate tasks and collaborate with colleagues. If necessary, hire a assistant to help make sure you are not overwhelmed during the day. Trust in others’ abilities and share responsibilities to reduce your workload.

8. Practice Time Management

Some of us really underestimate the amount of time required to complete specific tasks. To overcome this, start keeping a business journal and log the actual time spent on various tasks. This will help optimize work time and prevent falling into the trap of feeling shame or guilt if tasks take longer than anticipated.

In addition, stop multitasking and focus on only one task at a time. Research has shown that multitasking not only fails to be effective but can also increase stress levels.

9. Seek Professional Help

Consider consulting a mental health professional, such as a therapist or coach like myself, who specializes in stress, burnout, and work-related issues. 

Final thoughts about workaholism

It’s important to note that not everyone who works long hours is a workaholic, and a strong work ethic can be beneficial when balanced with self-care and personal time. Remember that healing from workaholism is a personal journey, and it’s important to tailor these steps to your individual needs and circumstances.

If you or someone you know is struggling with workaholism, seeking support from mental health professionals, making lifestyle changes, and prioritizing self-care can help mitigate these consequences.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need my assistance.

Dig deeper: Click here to listen to this episode from my podcast about perfectionism or press the play button below.


The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.

Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat you or anyone with a suspected mental health illness. Please, if you need help, seek appropriate help from a lawyer, health care provider or law enforcement officer.

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