The Atlantic's happiness columnist on why you're better off leaving the office and facing your feelings head-on.
Thursday, February 2, 2023

Here’s the latest installment of “How to Build a Life,” a column published every other Thursday in which Arthur C. Brooks tackles questions of meaning and happiness. Enjoy.

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Illustration of a person covered in post-it notes, which a small dog on their shoulder is trying to pull away (Jan Buchczik)

The Hidden Link Between Workaholism and Mental Health

Winston Churchill was many things: statesman, soldier, writer. He was one of the first world leaders to sound the alarm about the Nazi menace in the 1930s, and then captivated the global imagination as a leader against the Axis powers in World War II. While prime minister of the United Kingdom during the war, he kept a crushing schedule, often spending 18 hours a day at work. On top of this, he wrote book after book in office. By the end of his life, he had finished 43, filling 72 volumes.

Churchill also suffered from crippling depression, which he called his “black dog,” and which visited him again and again. It seems almost unthinkable that he could be so productive in states so grim that he once told his doctor, “I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything.”

Some say Churchill’s depression was bipolar, and windows of mania allowed him to work as much as he did. But a few of his biographers explain it differently: Churchill’s workaholism wasn’t in spite of his suffering, but because of it. He distracted himself with work. Lest you think this far-fetched, researchers today find that workaholism is a common addiction in response to distress. And like so many addictions, it worsens the situation it’s meant to alleviate.

Read the full article.

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