What’s Wrong with Being a Workaholic?

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Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My husband is a workaholic and proud of it. He said, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

I feel like a single mom. He frequently misses dinner and our children’s activities. He says he wishes he had a choice, but this is what’s required of him at his corporation.

He says he does this for us, but he does it to win accolades at work. He loves to brag about his successes, which aren’t as many as you would think.

No one else at his company works 13-hour days, Saturdays and many Sundays. I asked him if he thought family came first and he scoffed at me. He said I should appreciate what he does for us. I said we need marriage counseling and he responded that he doesn’t have time.

I was in tears last night when my parents came over. Both my parents were successful lawyers. They worked hard, but always had dinner with us. We had a wonderful life.


A “Single” Mom

Dear Mom,

You and your family are dealing with a person who feels compelled to work and may not truly enjoy working. It’s usually a compulsion, which doesn’t necessarily mean they love their work.

Workaholism is an addiction and like many other addictions, the addict may not see that he has a problem.

Workaholics may suffer from:

Efficacy problems – sleep deprivation – mental and physical health problems – impaired brain and cognitive functions – narcissism – negative behavioral patterns – loss of family and other social relations – anxiety – low self-esteem – escapism from emotional issues and trauma – higher systolic blood pressure – guilt – and many disorders, such as perfectionism, neuroticism and more.

Studies show:

  • Workaholics actually have poorer job performance than non-workaholics, and found they had less success in work and life.
  • Workaholics are usually driven by perceived outside forces and not a love for their work.
  • Increased work may cause “burn-out.”
  • Research in Japan showed workaholism as a serious social problem leading to early death, often on the job, a phenomenon dubbed “karōshi.” Overwork was popularly blamed for the fatal stroke of Prime Minister of Japan Keizō Obuchi, who died in 2000.
  • Many reports have indicated death from overworking – such as a London intern who worked for 72 hours straight before dying.

Unless he’s maliciously self-serving, he may be doing all he knows how to do. He may respond better to your continuous patience and acknowledgment of his ability to have a better life balance.

In calm and love, please show this column to your husband, and remind him, in response to his statement, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” … that can be arranged.


Rhonda and Dr. Cheri