Ergophobia: The Fear of Work

Do you worry too much about your work surroundings, even though there’s nothing to fear? You may have ergophobia (fear of work), and here’s how to get help.

What is ergophobia? defines ergophobia as an irrational or excessive fear of or anxiety about work. Ergophobia is an extreme, irrational, and crippling fear of work and its parts, like specific chores, social relationships, or meetings. To be labeled with ergophobia, the symptoms must last more than six months and not be better explained by another diagnosis, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety, or another phobia.

What causes ergophobia?

Ergophobia: The Fear of WorkSpecific fears happen when a particular stimulus is involved in a bad or traumatic event, either directly or indirectly, like a toxic work environment.

People with ergophobia have probably had something wrong or terrible happen at work.

They may have been embarrassed in public by a boss or coworker, made a mistake that hurt them personally or had something problematic occur at work, like having an abusive boss.

In the same way, someone can create a fear of work by hearing or seeing traumatic things happen at work, such as bullying or violence.

Ergophobia symptoms

Any phobia usually shows up as anxiety, fear, and avoiding the trigger, which in this case is anything to do with work. Fear of work or the workplace can show up as frequent job changes, breaks between jobs, missing work, and irrational worries about evaluations and exchanges with coworkers or bosses.

Some common signs of ergophobia are:

  • Sweating
  • Heartbeats or a racing heart
  • Dry lips
  • Feeling suffocated or having trouble breathing.
  • Panic attack
  • Not being able to finish work on time
  • Having trouble keeping a job
  • Lack of work for a long time
  • Trying to avoid taking on more work responsibilities
  • Thinking about bad things that happened at work or problems at work
  • Disengagement from work
  • Underemployment (work fewer hours or at jobs that don’t require much skill)

How to treat ergophobia?

Different types of therapy, like exposure therapy, EMDR, or CBT, can help phobias, and some people may also benefit from anxiety medications.

Some ways to treat ergophobia are:

  • Exposure treatment

Exposure therapy is thought to be the best way to help specific phobias. The setting can be in your mind, or with the help of virtual reality (VR) technology. Most treatments last anywhere from one to twelve rounds.

People with ergophobia would start by rating situations at work based on how much worry they cause. They would also learn ways to relax, like progressive muscle relaxation. The person would experience situations that they fear (either in real life, in their minds, or in simulations) while using relaxation methods.

The goal is to change how the trigger makes the person afraid. Exposure therapy sometimes involves medication to control how the body reacts to the stimulation.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)

Studies on particular phobias show that EMDR can help a lot in a short amount of time. It treats phobic situations as unresolved traumas by working through memories of them until they are no longer seen as dangerous or upsetting.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT tries to teach people how to deal with the negative thoughts about work that lead to fear and the avoidant actions that follow. The client starts with the scenario that makes them feel the least anxious and works up to the one that makes them feel the most worried. This continues until thinking about work leads to more adjusted behaviors and, as a result, more positive feelings about work. CBT often includes exposure treatment and psychoeducation.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a type of CBT that teaches people specific skills to help them deal with their strong emotions better. When it comes to treating ergophobia, DBT could teach skills like awareness, controlling emotions, and handling distress, especially regarding social or performance anxiety.

  • Medication

Medication for nervousness can be a helpful addition to other treatments for ergophobia. So far, there is no proof that it the best way to help a person. Overall, the best way to use medication effectiveness is to improve the success of exposure-based therapies. Medication may also help handle anxiety during sessions to keep the stimulus-response pairing from happening again.

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Anisa is a writer who focuses on career and lifestyle topics in an effort to motivate both job searchers and employers towards greater fulfillment in their professional lives.

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