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Workaholism and Your Relationships

Sure, workaholism doesn’t seem as bad as the other -isms (alcoholism, for example.) But like alcoholism, workaholism is a progressive disease, and if left untreated, it gets worse, isolating you from others and even from yourself.

Sometimes you might not recognize the impact until it’s too late and your relationships are distant and/or disintegrating. Hopefully, this post can help call attention to some signs and you can make changes much sooner than that.

work photo
Photo by HannahWebb

That means everything is turned off and you’re paying attention only to those person (or people.) There are no distractions, and the purpose is purely connection.

This could involve fun; it could be meaningful conversations; it could be a shared pursuit or goal.

Is the number lower than you’d imagined? And is that low number because you’re simply not home due to long work hours, or because you’re preoccupied? Because being home and less than present isn’t much better than being away. In fact, sometimes being around your loved ones while behaving as if they are beneath the level of your attention can do more damage.

Think about the messages that you’re sending, through your attention and inattention.

2) Do you get your self-esteem almost exclusively through work?

It’s important to be fed from different sources. It’s like eating multiple food groups.

Some of your nutrition should come from your relationships, and if it’s not, is it that they’re not feeding you, or you’re not feeding them? Often it’s a repetitive cycle: You’re not emotionally available due to work, and others stop making themselves as available to you. The distance (and possibly resentment) grows.

3) Are you masking underlying discontents by throwing yourself into work?

Sometimes workaholism relates to untreated depression, anxiety, or another mental health diagnosis. Throwing yourself into work is a coping mechanism that takes on a life of its own. If you’re so busy, you can’t feel bad, right?

But if you’re keeping yourself inordinately busy, it means you’re not attending to the problem itself, and therefore, it’ll continue. So maybe your answer will be to work more.

Or you might be masking your dissatisfaction with your relationships. You’re escaping to a place where you feel more confident and competent. But again, that means you’re not dealing with the problem itself, and it will continue to grow and fester. It might become irreparable.

Workaholism is about moving fast because if you slow down, you might notice what’s really happening, both internally and externally. Yet awareness is the first step to change: to creating a life where you can feel true contentment, where you don’t have to outrun unhappiness but rather, feel empowered to turn it around as it surfaces.

Like the other -isms, workaholism can be treated, and now is better than later.



Workaholism and Your Relationships

Holly Brown, LMFT

Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda ( ). She is also a novelist ( Her latest is HOW FAR SHE'S COME, a workplace thriller which received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly: "This provocative tale will resonate with many in the era of the #MeToo movement."

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APA Reference
Brown, H. (2017). Workaholism and Your Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Aug 2017
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