Workaholism: Dr. Bryan Robinson’s “Chained to the Desk”

Is Labor Day your favorite holiday because it celebrates work? On the other hand, you hate the irony of having a day off from work in order to celebrate it? If so, you might have workaholism.

Here’s the issue of workaholism as presented by

Here’s a riddle. What addiction destroys families, ruins the health of its victims, is covered by layers of denial and rationalization, yet we honor the addicts as role models? According to Dr. Bryan Robinson, in his book Chained to the Desk, work addiction afflicts as many as 20% of North American adults.

In 1998, Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, by family therapist Robinson, was considered “the first comprehensive portrait of the workaholic.” (The link is to the second edition, 2007).

Robinson, who previously suffered himself from this disorder, calls work addiction “the best-dressed problem of the twenty-first century.” Why? Because it looks so good on the outside; and as such, it’s even often rewarded. As stated in a article: “In a society that places high value on work and lauds individuals for their strong work ethic, getting workaholism recognized as a real, dangerous problem has been an uphill battle.”

People with work addiction may show some of these 10 signs, according to Robinson (

  • They are always in a rush and hyperbusy. Not content to do one job at a time the work addict will schedule multiple tasks with minimal time for completion.
  • They play the control game. They must control every activity to see that it gets done right.
  • Nothing is ever perfect enough for them. They are tough to work for and even worse to live with.
  • Their relationships crumble in the name of work. They let down family and friends by neglecting responsibilities and missing events, signifying that work is more important than family and relationships.
  • They produce work in binges. Like the alcoholic they will even hide work, sneaking it along on vacation, or continuing to work in their heads while physically appearing to be present in a social or family activity.
  • They are restless, no-fun grumps. Like all other addictions, it takes more of the behavior to achieve relief, and without the addictive activity the sufferer enters withdrawal.
  • They experience work trances and DWW (driving while working). They tune out or even have blackouts for periods of time or during conversations because their minds were occupied with work.
  • They are impatient and irritable.
  • They think they’re only as good as their last achievement. As with other addictions there is a progressive need to achieve more, as the addict develops increasing tolerance requiring more drug to get the same high.
  • They have no time for self-care. They skip meals, sleep, fun, and exercise in their treadmill existence.

What can a workaholic expect to achieve in therapy? From “In treatment for work addiction, the workaholic develops a moderation plan that introduces balance into life, including a schedule that allows time for physical health, emotional well-being, spiritual practices, and social support. Setting boundaries between home and work is critical, as is scheduling daily and weekly time for self-care, friendships, and play.”

Participation in a 12-step program is often recommended. Click here on the Workaholics Anonymous site for 20 questions you can ask yourself about your relationship to your work.

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