Managing workaholism and burnout: The importance of balancing productivity
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Do you work more than 40 hours per week or long shifts each day? Do you find that work gets you more excited than family, friends, hobbies, entertainment, sports or anything else? Do you take on extra assignments or projects because you’re afraid they will not get done otherwise? Answering yes to any of these indicating questions may indicate a person has workaholic tendencies. Likewise, if a person is working a comparable amount of hours, but lacks the enthusiasm, they may be suffering from burnout.


In terms of its direct effects on health and behavior, a number of studies have demonstrated the serious detriment that work-related stress and pressure can have on a person’s health. Specific disorders include depression and anxiety and even extend into the medical realm with a heightened risk of heart attack and diabetes. In general, workaholics may experience sleep disturbances, significant weight changes and a plethora of social problems as well, such as strained marriages and divorce.

A distinct feature of workaholism is the effect it has on one’s social behavior. Since workaholics dedicate an excessive amount of their professional and personal time to their job, the ability to adequately converse and interact with others is sacrificed. Along these lines, many diagnosed workaholics report relational problems and separation from their respective significant others due to their occupational activity.

It may be difficult to differentiate a strong passion for what one does in contrast to an unmanageable relationship with one’s job. Within a modern world of capitalistic goals, many people may begin depending on their work for the positive effects they receive from their accomplishments. Unfortunately, a heightened importance of one’s occupation may infringe on other enjoyable elements of life. Beyond these simple inquiries, understanding workaholism can be accomplished by not only identifying its characteristics, but realizing its effects on mental health.

Pioneering studies claim that workaholism can be divided into three distinct groups:

  • Real workaholics measure high in involvement and drive and low in enjoyment. These workers are classified as “real” since they do not overlap with other mechanisms like engagement and burnout.
  • Work enthusiasts measure high in involvement and enjoyment and low in drive. These workers are engaged with their job, but lack the inspiration to work.
  • Disenchanted workers measure high in drive but low in involvement and enjoyment. These workers most likely suffer from burnout as they do their job, but lack engagement and personal reward.


More current theories suggest that workaholism is a separate entity from work engagement and burnout. As researchers and other scholars continued to explore these distinct concepts, collected data show that workaholism and burnout have opposite correlations with one another. Specifically, observations detail that job satisfaction and organizational commitment are the most influential work outcomes. Levels of engagement are negatively correlated with these outcomes and subsequent studies support that employees with high involvement, like workaholics and enthusiasts, will respond better to satisfaction and commitment. Those with burnout are not as involved, so they will not respond as well to these outcomes.

Similar research isolates and breaks down the phenomenon of burnout into three elements as well, which includes exhaustion of mental resources, cynicism towards one’s job and a lack of professional and self-esteem. In addition to its serious effect on work performance and attitude, burnout can also spill into other areas of one’s life. According to the negative spillover hypothesis, burning out at work may transfer into further, adverse effects at home. Altogether, these physiological and psychological factors create an overall status of mental exhaustion.

Employees who reach a burnout level in their occupation report a host of negative symptoms. Similar to workaholics, social impairments and other health problems are sure to arise. However, a key distinction from other forms of being overworked is that those who burnout do not work long hours. These individuals are too tired and dissatisfied to show a commitment to their job anymore.

Finding help

Regardless of how a person overworks himself or herself, a serious dependency with one’s occupation rather than one’s social stability is a problem that should be addressed. Mental fatigue leads to additional medical problems. Professional support from Sovereign Health of California can stop this progression before it becomes too serious. Contact a Sovereign representative for more information about possible treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction, mental health disorders or co-occurring conditions. Chat online or call us over the phone to get started today.

Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Lee Yates

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