top of page

Why overcoming workaholism may require healing hidden trauma?

The relationship between traumatic events and the onset of addictions has long been established. [1] The self-medication theory of drug misuse was developed by Edward Khantzian, who claims that "human emotional distress and agony" and a "failure to endure one's emotions" are at the basis of addictive behaviour. [2] To numb or regulate misery, poor self-esteem, worry, or depression, people may turn to drinking, drugs, gambling or other unhealthy behaviours. Here’s why healing trauma is central to overcoming workaholic behaviour.

Bin Burnout

Workaholism is a symptom - not the cause of distress

Without solving the original trauma, eliminating workaholism is akin to eliminating a coping technique without mending the pain it was helping you manage.

Workaholism is praised in our culture, and the phrase is often overused, making it more difficult for those who suffer from it to recognise that they have a real problem. There has been little to no understanding of trauma and its implications on peoples’ lives before childhood trauma studies picked up steam in the 1980s and 1990s. The connection between beating or overlooking a child and how much it influenced their mental wellbeing, intimacy, relationships and overall health down the road has now been established. Trauma may lead to workaholism (sometimes called work addiction). However, it is crucial to remember that trauma isn't the sole factor that contributes to workaholism.

A person may develop an obsessive habit in order to deal with extreme stress and to cope with long-term trauma. Yet, when the individual is no longer in a distressing environment and the danger has passed, the process and new habits may stick and become dysfunctional and harmful. Many workaholics believe even on a subconscious level that their value as humans is based on how much they accomplish. Overworking may turn into obsessive behaviour, which is a serious mental health issue that, if left untreated, can lead to death - down to poor ill health from overworking and not looking after oneself or even depression and anxiety that may lead to self-harming tendencies.

Individuals who are just heavily invested in their work are not always workaholics. In fact, workaholics mostly don't like their jobs at all, yet they are forced to work due to internal pressures and emotions. To put it another way, most workaholic individuals invest their time in their jobs because they believe they should or must work. Such internal pressures and emotions can stem from anywhere, like pent up childhood trauma. [3] It clearly means that most of the time, workaholism takes root from deeper, hidden emotions.

What kind of experiences in early life lead to trauma that results in workaholism?

According to an article by the Atlantic magazine, [4] here are a few real-life experiences shared by professionals dealing with workaholism as a result of early life trauma.

Parent’s illness

Chanel Dubofsky, a 37-year-old author who lives in New York and Massachusetts, feels she has had exceeding expectations and overachieving urges since she was a child. It began when Dubofsky's mother was stricken with terminal cancer when she was seven years old, and it intensified when her mom succumbed again, at the ages of thirteen and seventeen. Dubofsky also claimed that her high school classmates encouraged her to work in this manner. They even had a friendly contest to see who could get the least amount of sleep.

Again, after her mom passed away, Dubofsky continued to participate in 20 credits of courses while most students only studied 12 or 15, staying up late to do assignments and sleeping in until midday. Chanel notes that her workaholism became worse when her mom died and says that her grief response of diving into work and studies felt different.

Abusive partners

Nancy, a documentary filmmaker and journalist centred in New York City, expressed her feelings about her overwork inclinations when she worked on a research study with an abusive partner. According to her, she placed all the disgust and resentment into the task as a whole to help make up for just how she wasn't taking proper care of herself on an emotional level. Some people believe that workaholics resort to work when they feel lost in other aspects of their lives. It's like coming to a certain one spot in which you can remain in command and feel secure while things seem out of hand or chaotic and painful.

How to begin the healing journey to workaholism free life

Concerned about how workaholism is affecting your personal and professional life? Don’t worry, there are numerous paths to recovery. Here are a few of them:


Although there is little research on how to effectively handle work addiction, treatments for similar conditions strongly suggests that various types of therapy may be helpful in addressing workaholism. A workaholic might benefit from a variety of therapeutic approaches, but the most important thing is to find the right therapist who understands their struggle and is skilled in supporting people to navigate their journey to recovery. [5]

Examine Yourself

To see whether you're a workaholic, choose one of the self-diagnostic tests available on our website > Quizzes. Check with your family, peers, and friends and discuss whether they think you work too much. Tell them you're looking to make changes and request their help and support.

Workaholics Anonymous

Workaholics Anonymous is a support group for those who are addicted to their work.

While this Twelve-Step programme is not officially a type of therapy, it may be beneficial in terms of offering support and direction from fellow workaholics who are already on their healing journey from work addiction.

Discover and understand

Determine what other reasons employment may serve in your life outside earning money (e.g., perfectionism, complex self-worth, standing, evasion, fulfilment).


For the cure of workaholism, no drugs have been licenced. However, medication may be useful in lowering the anxiety that may be contributing to work addiction, as well as in minimising the sadness that can come from isolation as a result of overworking. It must be noted though that drugs are most effective when combined with talking therapy.

Set Priorities for Direction and Significance.

Consider what's most essential to you (e.g., revenue, rank, relations, comfort, drive). Make a list of your objectives and utilize it as a wallpaper, as well as living your life in a manner that honours them. Identifying something a little more important to cling to makes it simpler to let rid of any addiction.


If you're an individual who suffers from workaholism, mindfulness practices and meditation can be of great help to you. Mindfulness practices can help you to bring about a sense of calm, which in turn can help you to be present and aware of what is happening. They can empower you to be more aware of your feelings and thoughts so that you can work to change what you do if it is not beneficial to you. Finding the right meditation practice can also be a very useful tool for stress reduction.

Build your boundaries

Building boundaries can help you overcome workaholism. After all, it's impossible to feel self-worth if you're sacrificing all your other activities, friends, and family time for work. It's also impossible to feel in control of your time if you have so many tasks to complete that you can't predict how long it'll take to complete them. When you follow our boundaries course, you'll learn how to set up boundaries that work for you, so that you can get more done while also doing more of the things you want to do.

Thank you for reading. We hope that you found the information we provided on the topic of workaholism and trauma useful. We encourage you to take a look at our course to learn how we can help you to build boundaries in order to overcome workaholism and end the burnout-recovery-burnout vicious cycle. For more information about our course, what it contains and how it can help you visit:



bottom of page