Workaholism: The Respectable Addiction?

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 6, Number 4

April heralds the arrival of Spring, FCATs, Earth Day, and Passover and Easter. Summer is not far behind with attention to summer camp, family vacations, and managing hot and humid days. During these trying times of excessive gas prices, political turmoil, and global unrest, we remind you to focus on the natural beauty of our planet. Simple attention to plants, trees, and lawns pay rich dividends in adding attractiveness to our environment. We may not have much control over politics or gas prices, but we can enhance our world by nurturing and respecting our natural environment.

In this April E-Letter, we present information about workaholism. Our Ask the Doc question deals with panic attacks and our email of the month is about thinking outside- the-box on a job interview question. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

We have received much feedback regarding anger management and intimacy which were the topics of recent E-Letters. So much so, that we are considering having, at no charge, small group discussions or workshops to further explore these and other topics. These discussions will be educational rather than clinical in nature. Please let us know by email,, what topics you would find of interest. You can find previous topics under the E-Letters section of our website.

We are also currently conducting psychoeducational evaluations to identify learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, or other types of problems that interfere with academic performance. We would be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s functioning in school and whether they are performing at their potential. You can either call us at 954 755-2885 or send us an email.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.

Workaholism: The Respectable Addiction?

Our E-Letter this month focuses on an addiction that many people have but refuse to acknowledge, that of workaholism. This is an addiction to work which is actually promoted in our society and reinforced with promotions and salary increases. The advent of technology has enabled people to be wired into their work 24/7 and globally so that it is actually possible to never disconnect from work. Yet is work addiction a truly respectable addiction?

There is no accepted medical definition for workaholism although obsessive-compulsive disorder or stress can describe this condition. Workaholism is not just working hard or working long hours. A workaholic obsesses about work and finds sleep and play time as interferences in their being productive. A workaholic’s focus is on the activity of being busy all the time rather than on being productive. In fact, workaholics often perform tasks that aren’t necessary just to keep busy. They tend to be inefficient workers who cannot delegate to others and do not trust others to do a job as well as they can. They are not team players and often take on too much work so they become disorganized and less effective than other workers. As all their time is spent in work, they do not maintain healthy interests in other activities, healthy relationships with family, and often have no friends. They ignore their health and do not have leisure time activities. They take work home with them and on vacations as they have to stay connected. They are often unable to see they have a problem and will either joke about or deny that they are workaholics. Workaholism can also have significant health consequences such as burnout, depression, anxiety, poor eating and sleeping habits, stomachaches and headaches. Workaholics tend to deny their health and only schedule doctors’ visits when they absolutely have to or are in unbearable pain. Dr. Bryan Robinson describes workaholics as people who don’t have many friends, don’t take care of themselves, and don’t have any hobbies outside of the office. “A hard worker will be at his desk, thinking about the ski slopes. A workaholic will be on the ski slopes thinking about his desk.”

Liberating oneself from workaholism involves several steps:

  • Consider what is truly important in your life
  • Disconnect periodically from electronics
  • Schedule specific time for your spouse and family to maintain relationships
  • Make time to be with and do things with friends
  • Maintain regular visits with your doctors to monitor your health
  • Exercise regularly and eat and sleep well
  • Take short breaks during the day
  • Exercise your mind with reading and learning activities

“For workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the basket of work.”— Judith M.Bardwick

What to Know!

  • Workaholism is a compulsive disorder or an addiction to work and it is quite different from just working hard or working a lot
  • It is an obsession with work and it interferes with maintaining healthy interests, relationships, and even one’s health
  • Karoshi is a Japanese term that means death by overwork and is estimated to claim over 1000 lives a year mainly through stress related heart attack and stroke
  • Workaholism can have major health consequences including burnout, anger, depression, anxiety, stomach aches, and headaches
  • Workaholics are inefficient but busy all the time; they feel anxious with nothing to do
  • Their focus is on activity, being and staying busy, rather than being productive
  • They tend not to be team players, do not delegate to others, are not as organized as others and have difficulty trusting others to do the quality of work they do
  • Like other addictions, workaholics deny that they have a problem
  • Some of its causes are parental modeling when younger, job demands, high perceived expectations, depression, and low self esteem
  • Workaholics often feel that by working long hours, it will increase their self worth
  • They tend not to have many friends, don’t take care of themselves, do not have any hobbies, and worry about work even when on vacation
  • Workaholics also tend to focus on work in order to avoid painful feelings or conflicts
  • Common traits of workaholics include: taking work home to do at night or on the weekends, only liking to talk about work, working makes them happier than anything else, taking on extra work, and being energetic at work and lethargic at home
  • Workaholics also have difficulty going home after a day’s work, have trouble enjoying the rewards of their work, and rationalize or break promises to relax
  • Workaholics often turn their home into another office and believe that sleep and play activities are a waste of time
  • Society tends to reward workaholic behavior with more money and promotions
  • It is easier being a workaholic today because of technology including smartphones, tablet computers, WiFi, and the concepts of telecommuting and a home office
  • Workaholics find it nearly impossible to disconnect from their technology

What to Do!

  • Program your schedule to spend specific time with family members and keep it
  • Force yourself to connect with and see friends
  • Limit your time with technology; disconnect for relaxation time
  • Schedule and keep regular medical exams, eat and sleep well, and exercise
  • Get out of the office for a few minutes several times a day and say hello to others
  • Exercise your mind by reading, writing, and learning unrelated to work things
  • Consider what you are working for; what are your life’s goals?
  • Attend Workaholics Anonymous meetings
  • Seek professional help if you are unable to manage your work addiction

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

RS writes: About one month ago, I had what can best be described as a panic attack. I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the emergency room at a hospital and after several tests was told that it was just panic. Since then, I have had a few more although not so bad. I have been trying to relax but feel on edge all the time expecting another. What do you think I should do?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies….This condition that you described happens to many people. Often, it seems to come out of nowhere and once it happens, you then also become fearful of panic itself. Unwittingly, you keep yourself in a state of arousal concerned that in any situation, you might panic. Some people never leave their home as they are afraid of having a panic episode in an unfamiliar place. The original cause of the panic gets lost and the panic itself becomes the focus of fear.

Treatment for panic disorder can be quite effective. Often it is a combination of a tranquilizer and psychotherapy. Medications can reduce or eliminate the panic so that a person feels that they have control over their life and are not afraid of having another episode. However, the cause or causes should be addressed in therapy. The sources of anxiety can be identified and strategies developed to reduce or cope with them. In addition, you can learn relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing techniques, that will decrease your overall state of arousal and you will not have to rely on medications.

If you continue to have panic attacks, I suggest that you consider talking to your physician about an appropriate medication and consider entering therapy.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Pam M. for sending us the following email:

Job Interview Question

You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus:

  1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
  2. An old friend who once saved your life.
  3. The perfect man (or) woman you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car?

Think before you continue reading. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application.

You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first; or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again.

The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his answer. He simply answered: “I would give the car keys to my old friend, and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams.”

Never forget to “Think Outside of the Box.”

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till May…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.