Are You Addicted to Work?

Workaholics can be determined by new psychology scale to measure level of work addiction

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Do you get stressed if you can't work? Do you work so much that your health, hobbies, family and family fall by the wayside? A new assessment may classify you a workaholic.

A group of researchers from the United Kingdom and Norway have developed a scale for work addiction that is designed to help clinicians and people in general determine whether they have an unhealthy relationship with working.

"Balance your work and play time."

Cecilie Schou Andreassen, of the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen in Norway, and colleagues developed the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS) to provide an objective way to measure whether someone truly is a "workaholic."

Andreassen told dailyRx that economic and cultural forces seem to have contributed to a rise in the prevalence of workaholism but that few measures of work addiction have been developed.

"As workaholism may have major health and social implications research on this topic is of high importance," Andreassen said. "Because the concept of workaholism stems from the field of addiction, measures of work addiction should be expected to be closely linked to the core elements of addictions."

The researchers' process therefore first involved creating a list of 14 items which focus on seven core elements of addiction. In technical terms, these include "salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, relapse and problems."

They then tested this assessment with two groups. The first group, including 11,769 participants, was recruited from a television commercial about workaholism who filled out a web-based survey.

The second group, of 368 participants, was pulled from a longitudinal internet-based survey about working life.

They then analyzed these results to determine which of the two questions assigned to each core element was best and came up with a scale of seven items.

The researchers also compared their scale to other existing scales that measure workaholism and found it to be clinically consistent in producing similar scores. Andreassen said she expects their scale to facilitate treatment outcome research and clinical assessment as well as help to estimate how common work addiction is in the general population.

According to Nicole Meise, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Beverly Hills, this scale can help distinguish between individuals who are simply determined and ambitious but still healthy from those who have a more serious issue going on.

"Patients often complain of insomnia, stress and burnout but have difficulty pinpointing why," Meise said. "This scale would provide an objective measure to see whether or not those symptoms could be attributed to their work habits."

Meise said that someone who completes the survey and discovers they may have an unhealthy addiction to work should consider consulting a therapist. "Therapy can be very helpful in creating balance between life and work," she said.

The scale's seven items are rated by a person with answers of Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often and Always. A score of "often" or "always" on at least four items may be an indication that the person might be addicted to work.

The seven items include the following:

• You think of how you can free up more time to work.
• You spend much more time working than initially intended.
• You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.
• You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
• You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
• You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
• You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

A person can take the assessment at the link below the story. If you find that you might qualify as a workaholic, Andreassen recommends trying to make positive changes in your life that allow you to free up time and slow down, such as getting a hobby or making sure to visit with friends other than work colleagues.

"If breaking the habit is difficult, one can seek professional help," Andreassen said. "Not much is known about treatment for workaholism as no controlled treatment/intervention study for workaholism has been conducted."

However, Andreassen added that cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing is effective for other behavioral addictions, such as pathological gambling.

The article appeared online April 10 in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. The study was funded by The University of Bergen and The Bergen Clinics Foundation in Norway. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 25, 2012
Last Updated:
May 7, 2012