Work addiction

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The so-called workaholism ( English workaholism , from the English. Work , dt. Work and alcoholism , alcoholism ) refers to the clinical picture of a "workaholic", one for his (alleged) Welfare, its ostensible health and satisfaction or its apparent success of the exercise people dependent on work in the medical sense .

"Workaholism" is therefore a "material un -bound addiction ", in which develops a compulsive attitude to power and work with all other addictions known medical and psychological consequences and complications. Work addicts live more or less exclusively for their work. The focus is mostly on quality and quantity, but not the meaning or purpose of the work to be done, and a perfectionist attitude is implemented.


Those affected by work addiction are primarily characterized by an obsessively above-average work commitment , excessive dysfunctional striving for perfection and inner drive, which increasingly lead to pathological addictive behavior . Job addiction is more likely to occur in people in management positions and self-employed activities. Self-esteem and self-confidence are largely linked to job performance. As with any form of addiction, the “dose” usually has to be increased over the long term. Workers and employees with a fixed employment contract (regular pay and working hours) are less affected.

In everyday use, the word workaholic is often used to refer to people who work hard but are still a long way from being an addict. Real workaholics are ill and should receive psychotherapeutic treatment as early as possible (professionally or in self-help groups). There are already 350 treatment centers for Karōshi in Japan .


The disease is divided into four stages:

  1. Initial phase: Work takes up ever larger parts of life (and free time). Secret work begins. Work is also considered in the remaining free time . Private interests and duties are increasingly neglected. Partners and children are often neglected.
  2. Critical phase: The excessive effort is tried to justify. All private areas are subordinate to work. The work is no longer fully mastered and hoarded; the first symptoms of exhaustion appear.
  3. Chronic phase: More and more tasks are taken on and stress is sought. As a consequence of perfectionism, the ideal person for processing is always seen in himself. The entire private life no longer has any meaning. Severe depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disorders can occur.
  4. End phase: Pathological sequelae occur. There is a massive drop in performance. Workaholics are often unable to work in their mid-50s or die very early.

The cause of death of the sick usually has overwork as a risk factor; for example heart failure, heart attack, or stroke . In Japan, this death is called Karōshi ( Japanese 過 労 死 , death by overworking ).

Pattern of work addiction

Addicted work is often shaped by two apparently opposing patterns: on the one hand, compulsive work, on the other hand, postponing or avoiding work.

Affected people often consider themselves to one of these two types, which are closely related: Priorities are lost due to the non-stop work . Non-stop work is often caused by perfectionism in work. Tasks should be completed as perfectly as possible and therefore take up more time. The urge for perfection often causes the focus on important tasks to be lost. Even low priority tasks take up a lot of space. The unfinished business continues to grow and has to be postponed. Conversely, the pressure increases due to many postponed tasks and prevents rest and relaxation. When working with a project character, extreme emotional highs at the end of the project and subsequent strong emotional lows until the start of a new project are typical.

Effects of work addiction

The flight from insecurity, partner problems, etc. into work has consequences: Relationships flatten or are even destroyed. Physical complaints can arise. Depression, anxiety, suicide or attempted suicide, early retirement and premature death are more common than the average among work addicts. Job addiction is more often associated with alcohol, pill and nicotine abuse.

The company may initially appreciate and encourage the incipient addiction, but in the later stage it comes to frequent disturbances: Failure to meet deadlines, wrong decisions, increased illness-related absences and performance losses that are exacerbated by alcohol and tablets.

As is often the case with addictions, you can initially see coverage by your colleagues, who, however, increasingly turn away in the later phases and reject the supposed service provider. The team is disturbed, the teamwork is impaired.

Society indirectly promotes work addiction through the paradigm that performance and even greater success are prerequisites for social recognition. Fear of losing one's job can also be beneficial.

See also




  • Ulrike Emma Meißner: Corporate risk of work addiction - management challenges and action guidelines for practice. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2017, ISBN 978-3-631-73289-2 .
  • Holger Heide (Ed.): The mass phenomenon of work addiction - historical background and current development of a new widespread disease. Atlantik, Bremen 2002, ISBN 3-926529-36-9 .
  • Ulrike Emma Meißner: The “drug” work. Companies as “dealers” and as risk takers - HR risks of work addiction. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 978-3-631-53701-5 (also dissertation at the University of Bremen 2005).
  • Stefan Poppelreuter: Work addiction . Beltz, Weinheim 1997, ISBN 3-621-27378-6 .
  • Byran E. Robinson: When the job turns into a drug. A guide for workaholics, their partners, children, and therapists . Walter, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-530-30058-6 .
  • Yen Sandjaja: When the job becomes an addiction. A scientific discourse on the subject of work addiction , VDM, Saarbrücken 2007, ISBN 978-3-8364-0388-7 .
  • Ute Rademacher: Work addiction. Recognize and prevent workaholism . Springer, Wiesbaden 2017.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Fritzi Wiesmann: work addiction . In: Kurt Landau (Hrsg.): Lexicon work design: Best practice in the work process. Genter, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-87247-655-5 , pp. 191f.
  2. ^ On the occasion of Alfred Behrens' 70th birthday . Deutschlandfunk , July 1, 2014