According to the standard classification of mental disorders used by health professionals, workaholism is not included as a nonsubstance addiction.
This distinction provoked a simmering debate in the therapeutic community. There are scores of mental health professionals and civilians alike who don’t recognize it as a problem. Because to them, workaholism no different than, say, caffeine addiction.
In my opinion, the problem is that people are asking the wrong set of questions. Should workaholism become recognized as a psychiatric disorder? Is it nothing more than pop psychology? Are workaholics just obsessive compulsive perfectionists?
These questions aren’t unimportant, but what might be more valuable to ask is something like this.
Is workaholism a useful construct to help heal your dysfunctional and unhealthy behavior?
For me, it was undeniable. For nearly a decade, workaholism was my coping strategy. It wasn’t the problem, it was the symptom. And finally learning see it as an addiction was deeply healing because it forced me to ask myself what the addiction was covering.
To paraphrase from the inspiring book of awakening, working was merely the drink by which you were able to briefly numb your worthlessness.
It’s true that workaholism, as a construct, lacks conceptual and empirical clarity. But I’m not a doctor, and this isn’t a university or a court room or a rehab center. This is my life. And whether the term is officially classified or not doesn’t matter.
Workaholism is and will always be a useful construct to help me heal. And nobody can take that away from me.
There’s a passage from a popular movie about a meth addict that summarizes it best:
Lesson learned, once you know about something, it doesn’t matter what the name is.
If it’s a stairway that takes you down to more meaningful places, then call it whatever the hell you want.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What construct has helped you heal yourself?