Looking for work: When the job eats your soul


Work as an addiction - Many people are workaholics

While most people look forward to the end of the day and the weekend to relax, workaholics cannot switch off in their free time and continue to think about the job. For her, work is an addiction. The Bonn industrial psychologist Stefan Poppelreuter explained to the Swiss Agency for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems that work addiction such as shopping addiction, gambling addiction or sex addiction belongs to the group of non-substance-related addictions and as behavioral addiction, often with clear characteristics of an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

According to the expert, there are “numerous parallels to substance-related dependencies in work addiction: those affected suffer a loss of control, they are unable to abstain, suffer from withdrawal symptoms if forced abstinence, show tolerance development and finally fight with psychosomatic and psychosocial problems.” For those affected work is all life. Not infrequently, they proudly describe themselves as workaholic.

Work addiction: falling for work The occupational psychologist Stefan Poppelreuter explained that work addiction cannot be determined by quantitative criteria such as the number of hours worked per week, but here the individual disposition plays a decisive role. “If someone has fallen into work, if his thoughts and actions only revolve around work, if he can no longer control the length of work and continues to work even on vacation or in the hospital, if he has sweats, a rapid heartbeat, depression or irritation on non-working phases reacts and the working time increases continuously, then this indicates a work addiction, ”explained Poppelreuter. In addition, "usually psychosomatic disorders such as headaches, functional heart problems and sleep disorders as well as psychosocial problems such as family conflicts or loss of friendship" can be observed.

Around 400,000 job addicts in Germany Despite good performance at work, job addicts are often not satisfied with their own performance and are perfectionistic even in secondary matters, the expert reports. In addition, they have difficulties delegating tasks and often their high standards lead to aggression, which is why job addicts are generally not able to work in a team, Poppelreuter continues. The tendency to be addicted to work is often recognizable at school. Despite good grades, those affected always feel the urge to do even more for school. If the desired grade is not achieved, this leads to considerable feelings of inferiority among the addicts. The Bonn industrial psychologist estimates that around one in seven Germans is potentially at risk of developing a pathological fixation. Around 400,000 people in Germany are acutely addicted to work, reports Poppelreuter.

Break through pathological fixation on work So that those affected can release themselves from their work addiction, the goal must be to enable controlled work, the Bonn industrial psychologist continues. Here, the demarcation between work and leisure, the targeted use of time-outs and regular relaxation are essential prerequisites for overcoming work addiction, explained Poppelreuter. First, however, those affected have to admit their pathological fixation on work. It is also important that the workaholics learn to take private appointments as important as professional, emphasized Poppelreuter. The workaholics often use the work to flee from emotions. Those affected “are absorbed in work and in clear hierarchical structures because this world gives them the illusion that they have everything under control. In the partnership or in dealing with children, they would have to give up control, ”explained the Bonn industrial psychologist, adding:“ Those absurdly behind the work around the clock for such motives often defend themselves against the family with the argument I'm only doing it for you!.“

Self-help groups to overcome work addiction The "Anonymous Work Addicts" (AAS) initiative provides support in overcoming work addiction. Here, those affected can also look for a self-help group in their area, where they can exchange ideas with other job addicts. There is also an overview of the noticeable signs on the ASS website that can be used to identify an addiction to work. Essential points mentioned here are, for example: "You take on too much and work to the point of complete exhaustion."; "You judge yourself and your day almost exclusively by the amount of work done - even more so the work not done."; "Your claim to perfection often paralyzes you completely at work." Or "You cannot separate between free time and working time and think about work constantly in your free time." (Fp)

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