When eagerness to work becomes compulsion to work

By Sarah RaparoliMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Not every person who likes to work a lot is automatically a workaholic. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention and to notice the corresponding signs at an early stage. Talks with a psychologist, a young professional and an ex-workaholic who retrained as a relaxation coach after two burnouts.

There are people who work themselves sick and can no longer help it. A dependence, an addiction, or even a compulsion – it's a condition that can ultimately end in burnout. "Before someone can be called a workaholic, it must be determined why this person works so much", explains psychologist Maryse Hansen in an interview with the Lëtzebuerger Journal. "Is it because this is required by the company or because this person really wants it that way? With the latter, I think we are approaching the definition of a workaholic." This term is difficult to define clearly in scientific psychology or psychiatry, she says.

Burnout is, according to her, accompanied by clear symptoms that are more noticeable to those around the person than to the person themselves. It is described as a state of severe mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that occurs after years or months of intense stress at work or when a person reaches the limit of what they can endure. A workaholic desires recognition and, as a result, invests himself or herself heavily, Hansen says. "Here's how this works in the brain: Recognition makes you happy and this releases dopamine. „We perceive this as a reward. If I am successful, I experience a high." This line between feeling high and feeling overwhelmed seems to be a very fine one – "until at some point it has too great an impact on the quality of life."

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