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Chained to the Desk (Third Edition)

A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them

Bryan E. Robinson

Publication Year: 2014

Americans love a hard worker. The worker who toils eighteen-hour days and eats meals on the run between appointments is usually viewed with a combination of respect and awe. But for many, this lifestyle leads to family problems, a decline in work productivity, and ultimately to physical and mental collapse.
Intended for anyone touched by what Robinson calls “the best-dressed problem of the twenty-first century,” Chained to the Desk provides an inside look at workaholism’s impact on those who live and work with work addicts—partners, spouses, children, and colleagues—as well as the appropriate techniques for clinicians who treat them.
Originally published in 1998, this groundbreaking book from best-selling author and widely respected family therapist Bryan E. Robinson was the first comprehensive portrait of the workaholic. In this new and fully updated third edition, Robinson draws on hundreds of case reports from his own original research and years of clinical practice. The agonies of workaholism have grown all the more challenging in a world where the computer, cell phone, and iPhone allow twenty-four-hour access to the office, even on weekends and from vacation spots. Adult children of workaholics describe their childhood pain and the lifelong legacies they still carry, and the spouses or partners of workaholics reveal the isolation and loneliness of their vacant relationships. Employers and business colleagues discuss the cost to the company when workaholism dominates the workplace.
Chained to the Desk both counsels and consoles. It provides a step-by-step guide to help readers spot workaholism, understand it, and recover.
Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a psychotherapist in private practice. He is the author of over 35 books, including The Smart Guide to Managing Stress and his debut novel, Limestone Gumption. He hosted the PBS documentary, Overdoing It: When Work Rules Your Life and has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, WorldNews Tonight, NBC Nightly News, and The Early Show.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i -vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

It’s hard to believe that this book is now in its third edition. I have many people to thank for its continued success. My deepest appreciation goes to the anonymous individuals who took the time to write about their courageous struggle with work addiction and how it damaged their lives, as well as their inspiring...

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Introduction: Glorification of an Illness

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pp. 1-10

Recording artists have always known something about the work world that the American workforce still doesn’t get. Cyndi Lauper sang it: “When the working day is done, girls just wanna have fun.” Michael Jackson crooned it in Off the Wall: “So tonight gotta leave that nine-to-five upon the shelf and just enjoy...

Part I: Work Addiction: The New American Idol

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1: Who, Me? A Workaholic — Seriously?

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pp. 13-28

There was a time when I needed my work — and hid it from others — the way my alcoholic father needed and hid his bourbon. And just as I once tried to control my father’s drinking by pouring out his booze and refilling the bottle with vinegar, the people who loved me sulked, pleaded, and tore their hair out...

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2: How to Spot Work Addiction

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pp. 29-48

As a sixty-five-year-old physician, I was forced into retirement by multiple health and legal issues, and I surrendered my medical license in the fall of 2009. When I look back, it’s clear that the seeds of my work addiction sprouted in childhood. I mowed lawns in junior high, became a construction laborer as...

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3: When Work Addiction Hits Home

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pp. 49-66

For years I lived with loneliness, disappointments, broken promises, anger and chaos, created by my husband’s addiction to work. Nobody can ever understand my pain when they see the million-dollar house I live in or my beach house, the cars, boat, clothes, travel. I have luxury that some people don’t even...

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4: Inside Your Workaholic Mind

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pp. 67-84

When I’m honest, I realize there have been workaholic patterns in my life as long as I can remember. On the positive side, I had worked my way to a top senior management position in an international role by my mid-thirties. I was one of the few working females in a male-dominated industry. I had gotten...

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5: Childhood and the Making of a Workaholic

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pp. 85-100

The first time I spoke with Gloria Steinem, we both said, “I feel like I know you.” Although our lives were very different on the outside, the way we experienced them was much the same on the inside. The following accounts of the childhoods of two self-professed workaholics, Gloria Steinem and me, illustrate...

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6: Spouses and Partners of Workaholics

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pp. 101-118

The simple fact is that my husband’s work addiction was stronger than anything else in the family. And we’re now an unkept statistic. My children and I carry the oh-so-common legacy of pain that lies in the wake of every soul-destroying obsession. For Ron a normal workday lasted eighteen hours, six...

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7: Children of Workaholics

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pp. 119-138

My father had two loves: work and bourbon. He also, of course, loved his two children but we learned at an early age that being close to our father required entering his world of ambitious interests and endless cycles of working, drinking, sleeping. Our house ran on our father’s energy. When the phone rang, as...

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8: Risky Business: Work Addiction in the Company

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pp. 139-160

I got my first job at fourteen, not out of necessity but out of want. I went to school to finish my senior year in the morning and at noon to work in a grocery store, where I worked for forty hours a week. I bragged about what a great work ethic I had, but little did I know that that was just the beginning. I went...

Part II: Recovery from Work Addiction

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9: Your Workaholic Brain

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pp. 163-178

Like many workaholics, my battle began in childhood. I was born in the rural South, the youngest of four children. My father, who was twenty years older than my mother, became severely handicapped from a stroke when I was five years old. My strong-willed mother had to take care of my father, her three...

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10: Mindful Working

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pp. 179-194

In March of 2011, just after my forty-seventh birthday, I was driving to the office as early as I could get on the road. I’d made it my habit to get to the office before anyone else so I could “get ahead of the game” and organize my next accomplishment. During the drive there wasn’t anything specific causing...

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11: Your Work Resilient Zone: Finding Your Positive, Compassionate Self

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pp. 195-212

From the time I was eighteen, I stuffed into my hip pocket each day a worn week-at-a-glance. It became my bible and scorecard, dictating every hour of devotion to my disease, ensuring I wouldn’t forget an appointment in my daily frenzied pace. Its margins were crammed with lists of tasks to accomplish...

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12: Work-Life Balance and Workaholics Anonymous

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pp. 213-228

I was the only daughter born to first-generation southern European immigrants. I grew up in a family that subscribed to the American dream of hard work, toil, and sacrifice. Both my parents were workaholics. I don’t remember my family relaxing in the living room and talking among ourselves except when...


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pp. 229-238


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pp. 239-252


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pp. 253-261

About the Author

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pp. 262

E-ISBN-13: 9780814770696
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814724637
Print-ISBN-10: 0814724639

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2014