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Workaholism and neuroticism

Work addiction (workaholism) is widely regarded as a “sign of modern times”, being a certain norm of work-related behaviors that fit well with the culturally determined and legitimized goals of striving for success and self-fulfillment. However, research shows that addiction to work takes a huge toll – sudden death from overwork (karoshi), often referred to as “desk death”, only in Japan itself, where strong, workaholic work ethics (70 hours a week) dominates, covers as many as ten thousands of people a year. It is also assumed that workaholics constitute about 5% of the population, which would mean that every twentieth man is addicted to work. Addiction to work is therefore a dangerous social phenomenon – addiction treatment in Cape Town.

Although addiction to work is perceived as a result of external, socio-cultural conditions, due to the fact that it corresponds well with them, the article will attempt to show that workaholism is associated with a personality type with neurotic tendencies. The main personality traits that define neurotics are: high levels of anxiety, shaky self-esteem, the search for external dimensions (successes) confirming self-esteem and having many defenses. Addiction to work can perform some important functions for neurotics, be a defense mechanism that reduces anxiety and serves to confirm self-esteem and self-esteem.

In this article, the author draws attention primarily to the links between workaholism and neuroticism and emphasizes the negative impact of work addiction on man and society. The aim of the article is to present the phenomenon of addiction to work by looking for its conditions in the features of neurotic personality.

In modern society, there is often talk of a “workaholic nation.” The technological revolution of the 90s, the development of multimedia, computer and internet technologies has created the opportunity for greater productivity to free societies from exhausting, intensive work. However, the development of technology, prosperity and economic boom has been accompanied by an increase in the number of working hours since the 1960s. At the beginning of the 19th century, along with the development of industry, an average of 62 hours a week was worked, in the 20th century – 60 hours. It can therefore be concluded that the development of technology did not contribute to release from intensive and exhausting work.

The US countries lead the industrialized countries in the number of employees, the number of days in the year spent at work and the number of hours of work per day. In this respect, they even overtook Japan. Surveys from 1994 indicate that the average American works 44 hours a week and 6 hours on weekends. It is also assumed that the growing consumerism promotes certain lifestyle trends that require significant financial support leading to workaholic work.

Socio-cultural phenomena can only provide a context in the analysis of the phenomenon of workaholism, creating indirect conditions in the formation of workaholism that contribute to the neuroticisation of individuals and societies.

Work addiction, otherwise known as workaholism, is a term that is widely used not only by specialists. Workaholism has become an element of everyday life and language today. Scientific terms and definitions often mingle with the colloquial meaning of the word. Most often workaholism is treated as a perceptible exhaustive work style, usually associated with long working hours or non-stop work. In such a situation, the only remedy for workaholism would be to change this behavior, i.e. stop work or reduce working time. It is most often thought that work addiction is the result of external conditions, a difficult, stressful life and professional situation as well as socio-cultural requirements that enforce such an exhausting work style. Workaholism, however, has deeper conditions, and what can be observed is only a manifestation, a certain syndrome of processes and internal disorders of the individual.

The concept and definitions of work addiction (workaholism)

The term workaholism was first used by W. Oates in 1968 by analogy with the phenomenon of alcoholism. Oates argued that workaholism was a negative phenomenon, although he treated the problem fairly lightly and humorously. Then Machlowitz gave work addiction a positive character, associating it with pleasure and creativity. Maslach, on the other hand, used the terms workaholic and addicted to work, stating that he is a man who is obsessed with work, and at the same time is overworked and stressed. The analysis of the workaholic phenomenon was only theoretical, no research was carried out, because workaholism was treated as a synonym of behavior pattern A, associating it with long working hours and assuming that a workaholic is one who works more than 50 hours a week.

Spence and Robbins tidied up the terminology and definitions of workaholism, as well as pointed out the consequences associated with it. The authors said that workaholism is characterized by extreme attachment to work, expressed in, among others in devoting a lot of time to this type of activity. Their merit is to see alcoholism-like addiction in workaholism based on internal coercion. According to them, it is not external circumstances, such as the requirements of the environment or the pursuit of pleasure felt at work, that cause motivation to work, but internal factors. Therefore, in their opinion, a characteristic element of addiction to work is the feeling of stress and guilt during holidays. They also expanded the concept of workaholism by assuming that it may apply to all types of work, including non-professional activities. Based on these characteristics, a preliminary definition of workaholism was created based on high commitment to work, a sense of internal compulsion to work, and low job satisfaction.

Work addiction is multidimensional and multifaceted, which can be described as work addiction syndrome. The most important element of workaholism is a certain specific attitude of the individual to the type of forced labor. The compulsion to work refers to the way of performing activities involving uncontrolled, compulsive need for constant work. It manifests itself in the inability to control your work-related behavior, the inability to stop work or thinking about work of your own free will, so-called “Turn off”. The compulsion to work occurs at the mental level, has an internal, cognitive character and exists despite the negative effects on psychophysical health and disorders in the social functioning of the individual, causing a dissatisfaction with work and life.

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Emphasizing internal compulsion and compulsions in the characterization of workaholism means that addiction to work is not just an “external” symptom, but a state of consciousness. Workaholics can therefore be “engaged in work”, even when they are not working, sinking in thinking about work. Therefore, the very uncontrolled compulsion to think about work, which is accompanied by even a small amount of work, can lead to psychophysical overload, which is an inseparable element of workaholism next to work compulsion.

K. Wojdyło in his definition of work addiction states that workaholism is a kind of behavioral pathology, manifested in the urge to constantly engage in work or other work-like activity that is permanent and ever increasing. Continuous involvement in work, despite overload and lack of satisfaction, is also a factor that distinguishes work addiction from burnout. However, workaholism cannot be equated with a healthy commitment to work that results from satisfaction and a sense of job satisfaction in which the sense of internal coercion is absent.

The criteria for diagnosing workaholism can be found in the work addiction syndrome and in a statement based on the International Classification of Diseases and Health Problems ICD-10. These are:

quantitative and qualitative increase in involvement in work, manifested in increasing the time devoted to work and undertaking an increasing number of tasks and projects;
concentrating thoughts, goals, imagination on work, while losing interest in other matters not related to work and treating other activities in terms of work;
loss of control over your behavior, in which you cannot assess your working time and the number of tasks to be completed;
inability to abstinence, i.e. stop work and live without work, which is felt as a subjective inability to stop working. With forced or deliberate cessation of work, anxiety and tension appear, leading to somatic symptoms;
reduction of job satisfaction, while increasing involvement in it;
occurrence of recurrence of addiction as well as health problems and dysfunctionality in human social functioning.

According to K. Wojdyło, work addiction is most often defined as an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is characterized by, apart from the inability to control one’s own work, the individual imposing very high demands on himself, and excess work, associated with giving up most other types of life activities. The obsessive nature of work engagement, often referred to as “work frenzy,” is primarily due to workaholic perfectionism and the need for competition. Perfectionism consists in constantly overestimating the requirements, performance standards, undertaking new challenges and goals, new responsibilities, critical attitude towards others and expecting severe criticism from others. For these reasons, there is no permanent performance criterion, which leads to constant dissatisfaction and increasing workload. Workaholics also address their high demands and expectations related to their colleagues, which negatively affects interpersonal relations in the workplace.

It is worth emphasizing that overload occurring in people addicted to work may cause a lack of sense of sense of work. This is due to the performance of work against your own conviction, under the influence of internal coercion, which makes work become tedious and more tiring due to the effort and increased mobilization of the body, associated with having an aggressive attitude towards work. In this situation, the performance of work is accompanied by experiencing negative emotions, constant tension, rush and fatigue, because working time is felt as annoying. Work senselessness occurs when work, which is observed in workaholics, becomes an instrument to discharge nervous tension to achieve relief.

Work addiction, expressed in a specific attitude to work and work style, is also manifested in giving too much importance to work in life. Research shows that professional work is a valued value and occupies a high position in the hierarchy of people’s values ​​as well as family life, friendship and material affairs. This is due to the fact that in modern society, highly qualified work dominates, which becomes a measure of social status and prestige. Work is the content of the lives of all “healthy people”, through work people self-define and define themselves, define their place in society, develop their capabilities, derive satisfaction from it and a sense of agency (dealing with problems). The importance of work for a person is evidenced by the fact that with deprivation of work, the individual loses a sense of security and internal integration. However, in work addiction, work becomes the most important thing. Workaholism, like any other type of addiction, leads to deformation of emotional life (problems with expressing feelings), emotional and spiritual life, and also affects the social environment of the addict. It should be emphasized that the work fills the whole life of a workaholic, which destroys family relationships and relationships with other people. Workaholics are becoming more isolated, avoid social contacts, limiting them only to contacts with colleagues in the workplace. They often fail others, failing to meet their obligations, which is due to setting high demands and overestimating their work-related opportunities. Research shows that workaholism is the main source of marital problems. There is also a link between life crises caused by work addiction and a high divorce rate. Workaholics also negatively affect the emotional development of their children, because workaholic parents do not show them tenderness and love.

Workaholics have also been shown to have a negative impact on the work environment. Problems arising from cooperation with workaholics are: low morality, conflict situations, unproductivity, absenteeism, boredom, lack of trust and teamwork.

Treating work as the greatest value is associated with bypassing other spheres of life. That is why workaholics have a disappearance of interest, hobbies and cessation of matters not related to work, while at the same time treating other classes in terms of work. It should be noted that workaholics may be addicted not only to work performed in the workplace, but also to any goal-oriented activity. Therefore, the term ‘addiction to attachment’ is a more appropriate term.

Workaholics have an unhealthy attitude towards free time. They are characterized by the inability to rest, even in situations specifically intended for this. People addicted to work rarely take leave, even if they have time off from work, they are still absorbed in it, constantly think about it and have a guilty conscience over the fact that they do not work. Very often they experience insomnia and trouble with sex life. People addicted to work experience a certain lack of work reaction syndrome, the so-called Sunday neuroses, manifested by headaches and other indispositions.

It can be stated that workaholics never rest and live in constant tension, unable to rest, relax and unwind. They often release stress and tension in stimulants, which is why work addiction can lead to other addictions, e.g. alcoholism.

There is sometimes a controversial position that workaholism has a healthy form that would be associated with job satisfaction. Opposite to “healthy workaholics” group would be people working under the influence of anxiety, anxiety, destructive internal coercion, showing lack of job satisfaction and high commitment to work, leading to loss of health. They would be characterized by a higher level of perfectionism, a strong sense of control, as well as experiencing stronger stress associated with the requirements they set. Declaration of workaholics about feeling job satisfaction may result from focusing only on the so-called euphoria of work or “peak experience” related to work, caused by an increase in adrenaline. However, a strong counterargument to this view is the internal contradiction of the phrase “healthy workaholism” itself, because the term “workaholism” implies some form of pathological behavior. According to some views, work is a type of drug, because due to excessive secretion of adrenaline during exhausting work, it can lead to ecstasy and euphoria. Work can be extremely addictive, not only as the weaker types of drugs, but as strong as cocaine.

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The work addiction is much more dangerous and it is more difficult to free it from it, because it is supported by modern culture. Underestimating the danger of workaholism is favored by the positive social perception of this phenomenon. Workaholism is identified with a healthy, effective and highly valued work style. It is emphasized that the subject of addiction, which is work, is an important, positive value in all societies, and the initial stages of addiction do not differ from the commitment of a person who is valued for such a style of work. This attitude towards workaholism may also be associated with the culturally legitimate goal of striving for success through your own hard work. As it is assumed, modern society forces the pursuit of certain unparalleled standards, which is why no man can stand still, have a vision and aim at something. Incomprehensibly imposed culturally imposed goals of striving for success arouses great fear in man. The reason for underestimating the negative consequences and consequences of workaholism – both for the individual and society – can also be the fact that workaholism is a specific addiction, not related to substances, belongs to the group of non-chemical addictions, and these are usually underestimated. Addiction to work is a type of addiction to the so-called everyday matters, valuable by nature, necessary for life, which also includes work, and bringing negative effects when the use is too frequent or too intense.