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Nine Ways Workaholics Can Save Themselves

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Turns out, working hard is hardly working.

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Corporate pressure doesn't make workaholics any more than supermarkets create obese people or booze begets alcoholics.

But the downbeat economy has forced many to fret about job security, especially as major companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), IBM (IBM), Intuit (INTU), and Deere (DE) cut back. The threat of layoffs may cause some to put in longer hours at the office in an effort to show they're team players and underscore their value. There's a reason why this is the first recession in history in which people have actually gotten more productive. Workaholism seems to be the order of the day.

Typically, however, workaholics put in crushing hours at the office to escape social relationships or even intimacy with a spouse. In short, workaholics generally lack confidence and use the long hours to hide from other problems.

"Hours spent at work displace hours doing something the workaholic dreads even more," says Dr. John Hoover, a Minyanville professor, member of Partners In Human Resources International and author of How to Work for an Idiot: Survive and Thrive Without Killing Your Boss.

"Just as shopping, drinking, drug use or excessive sexual acting out are attempts to escape an unpleasant present, workaholism serves a similar escapist fantasy. It doesn't matter what the workaholic is trying to escape -- a bad marriage, dining alone, visits from urban missionaries or poverty phobia -- working yourself to death seems to be the lesser evil."

Here are the warning signs of workaholism and the first steps necessary to overcome the affliction:

1. Typical behavioral signs include temper tantrums, insomnia, restlessness, irritability, impatience, forgetfulness, boredom, and wild mood swings ranging from euphoria to depression.

2. Typical physical signs include fatigue, headaches, indigestion, breathing difficulties, chest pain, dizziness, and nervous tics.

3. Workaholics can be men or women.

4. Realize that a workaholic puts in long hours to escape an emotional void -- long hours at the office have nothing to do with efficiency or dedication.

5. You can't fill the emotional void until you define it and understand its cause.

6. Workaholics and their loved ones aren't alone. Workaholics Anonymous or a similar group may be able to help.

7. Study the most efficient workers in your office because they understand how to balance work with their personal life.

8. The road to recovery for a workaholic can be as difficult as the problems faced by a recovering alcoholic.

9. Though it sounds paradoxical, workaholics have to work to get balance in life.

For non-workaholics, the condition often evokes snickers, smirks, and eye-rolling. But workaholism is a serious condition that can destroy marriages, harm children, and create unnecessary tension at the office. It shouldn't be tolerated or cited as dedication by a clueless boss.
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