[Workaholism: between illusion and addiction]

Encephale. 2010 Sep;36(4):285-93. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2009.12.002. Epub 2010 Mar 10.
[Article in French]


Workaholism surfaced some years ago as a veritable addiction in the wide sense of the term, dependence. It differs from other sorts of dependence in that it is very often viewed in a positive perspective in the sense that it conveys to the person concerned the illusion of well-being, as well as a motivation and dedication in their professional activity. During the past 30 years, several authors have attempted to define this concept and to determine its characteristics. Robinson believes that workaholics have an approach to life whereby their work feeds on time, energy and physical activity. This provokes consequences that affect their physical health and interpersonal relationships. They have a tendency to live in the future rather than in the present. For Scott, Moore and Micelli , the compulsion for work is not necessarily viewed as being detrimental to one's health. Spence and Robbins highlight the notion of the pleasure experienced at work in their theoretical approach. The prevalence of the dependence on work is estimated at between 27 and 30% in the general population. It is correlated to the number of hours of work per week and tends to be higher as annual revenue increases. The sex ratio is 1, and the parents of children 5 to 18 years of age are the most susceptible to considering themselves workaholics. The physical and psychological consequences of professional exhaustion are characterized primarily by the decrease in self-esteem, symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability and the manifestation of physical problems including cardiovascular ailments, as evidenced by hypertension, as well as heart and kidney complications. All the theoretical point of views, from the psychoanalytical models to the contemporary models, highlight self esteem as being the centerpiece of the question regarding the problem of workaholism. In fact, the narcissism articulated from the sociological evolution of our western way of life permits us to delineate the psychic identity of the individual better, and therefore, to understand this reconstructive attempt of one's self better. In characterizing the personality traits of workaholic individuals, the doctor/therapist is required to deal with this new form of dependence as early as possible, in order to anticipate and avert the numerous personal, professional, social, relational and sanitary complications. Faced with this large prevalence of dependence on work, it seems important to us to look for a symptomatology that would emanate a signal of workaholism so as to envisage and propose to workaholic patients a specific course of action that would be adapted to their needs.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / rehabilitation
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Burnout, Professional / rehabilitation
  • Character
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Income
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narcissism
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Concept
  • United States
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workload / psychology*