We’ve all met or heard of someone in our lives who most would call “over achievers,” “perfectionists,” or “workaholics.” Some psychologists would say that these individuals are “addicted to success.” I recently had a brief discussion with some of my colleagues about whether this drive to succeed was an actual addiction or if there was something else that made such people push themselves to the brink of bodily, psychological, and emotional harm. The general consensus was that this drive could be seen as an addiction. One colleague even pointed out that anything seemingly innocent COULD turn into an addiction (e.g., shopping, exercising, praise from others). I wanted to understand this phenomenon, and stumbled upon an article by Dr. Susan Babbel, MFT (2011), who writes about reasons for “success addiction” (found at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201101/addicted-success).
In her article, Babbel talks about individuals experiencing addiction to success as a result of some unresolved “trauma” that needs to be “played out” to completion (2011). Essentially the addiction was caused by a subconscious sense of being “stuck” because of the trauma they experienced. She further notes that others may develop this “drive” to succeed because of a secondary addiction to the “adrenaline rush” where the need to constantly be on the edge of their seat is much like a drug (Babbel 2011). Although the article is a bit older than more recent studies, the findings are still relevant today.
In Book Three of The Last Prophet series, Raphael’s Journey (due for release in winter 2015), the main character, Joseph Copper, has an addiction to the adrenaline rush mentioned above in Babbel’s article. Although the adrenaline is achieved in a different way than stated above, it is Joseph’s addiction regardless. Today we see that those who we stereotype as having Type A personalities and the accompanying drive are considered to be more successful. But what cost do these individuals pay? Early onset of hypertension? Possible stroke or heart attack? Alienation from spouse and other significant others because of their lack of “quality time” with the ones they love? Another consequence noted by Babbel is that the individual will and can never be satisfied by even the greatest of their accomplishments. In our current American culture, those with success addiction are praised, which ultimately feeds that which can harm them. Hyper-driven success addicts are rewarded by employers, peers and colleagues, and other industry professionals.
So when does this “addiction” become socially “unacceptable” …or does it? When does this addiction become harmful, or is it harmful? If it is harmful, how should we counteract the side effects of a success addict’s withdrawal symptoms, if any are experienced? Comment in the space provided.
For other blogs or to follow Author Claire Gager on social media, go to: