SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 30, 2013

Column: The pause that refreshes

Although there is apparently no agreed-upon definition of “workaholism,” it seems to be slowly gaining as much acceptance as such well-known and better-studied addictions as alcoholism and drug abuse. Some of us were unaware of this because of such natural defenses as high levels of sloth and indolence.

Some people apparently get an adrenaline rush from constantly working and become depressed and anxious if they can’t. They sneak out of the house to get in extra work and conceal the amount of work they take with them if they are forced to take a vacation.

At parties, workaholics have been known to slip off to finish the hosts’ basement or slip out back to mulch the begonias.

According to the Financial Times, the term was coined in 1968 — a year when a lot of weird stuff happened, not much of it work-related — by Wayne Oates, an American psychologist, religious educator and author of 57 books, the sign of a real problem right there.

There is now a Workaholics Anonymous with a 12-step program, similar to the groups Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, beginning with the recognition that the sufferer is helpless in the face of the addiction and that the cure involves the intervention of a higher power.

The Times wrote that researchers in the United Kingdom and Norway have been at work on diagnostics for work addiction and have come up with a questionnaire that requires answers ranging from (1) “Never” to (5) “Always.”

Some of the questions seem quite sensible: “You work so much that it has influenced your health negatively.” Others less so: “You spend much more time working than originally intended.” I mean, who doesn’t?

One member of Workaholics Anonymous identified only as “Michele” said, “I didn’t believe I was worthwhile unless I was productive.” Michele — and I don’t think we’re giving away any secrets here — that’s the way management wants you to feel.

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