Ergophobia or fear of work: characteristics and causes

Ergophobia or fear of work: characteristics and causes

There are hundreds of phobias, some more well known than others. Among them, there is ergophobia. The latter is a very specific phobia, characterized by irrational and excessive fear of work.

People who suffer from this phobia often experience very high anxiety symptoms when they have to go to work. The suffering is such that their terror prevents them from going to work or drives them to return home in the middle of the day.

What are the characteristics of specific phobias?

Phobias are defined as an intense and irrational terror towards a person, object or situation that causes little or no danger. The word comes from the Greek word "phobos" which means "panic".

In Greek mythology, Phobos was also the son of Ares, god of war and Aphrodite, goddess of love. He personified fear. Alejandro Magno prayed before phobos before each battle to ward off fear.

When we talk about ergophobia, we are referring to a specific phobia which is characterized by fear or anxiety towards clearly defined objects or situations that may be called phobic stimuli. In this case, all the stimuli associated with going to work or being in a workplace are mentioned.

The ergophobia, like the rest of the specific phobias, has certain characteristics. The characteristics of specific phobias, in broad outline are the following:

  • Fear or intense anxiety related to an object, or a specific situation (eg flying, height, animals, vaccines, blood …)
  • The object or situation almost always causes fear or immediate anxiety.
  • The phobic situation is actively avoiding or resisting with fear and intense anxiety.
  • Fear or anxiety is disproportionate if we analyze the real danger involved in the specific object or situation and the socio-cultural context.
  • Fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent and typically lasts 6 months or more.
  • Anxiety, fear or avoidance causes clinically significant malaise or deteriorates the social, professional or other important areas of functioning.

It is common that people suffer from several specific phobias. About 75% of people with specific phobias fear more than one situation or object.

Specific characteristics of ergophobia

Feelings of anxiety at work can be felt at different levels. This is not pathological and sometimes even normal depending on the type of work we have. In fact, these sensations are always related to the characteristics of our job.

However, the person who suffers from ergophobia presents an excessive and irrational fear relating to his work. This fear is much greater than that felt by a typical worker. Moreover, the ergoraphobic person recognizes that his fear is not rational and totally disproportionate.

Those who experience ergophobia are aware that their anxiety about work is irrational, no one should make them understand it. Nevertheless, they can not help but feel a paralyzing fear. These people are unable to control their anxiety. The latter appears automatically when the threatening stimulation comes and the person goes into panic without being able to do anything about it.

To be able to diagnose ergophobia, the person must be afraid of work persistently. This means that she is always afraid, regardless of whether her professional characteristics are changing.

Another of the features of ergophobia is leakage. The person who suffers from phobia at work makes sure to avoid any stimulation related to it. This can cause job loss in the most severe cases.

Causes of ergophobia

In the same way as it happens for other specific phobias, ergophobia develops through common mechanisms. It is possible that the person suffers from ergophobia because she suffered a negative event at work. However, phobias "learn" also by other means.

Phobias can be acquired in a direct way (thanks to the negative experiences lived by the person) or indirectly (the person sees or hears a story that traumatizes her). Most likely, ergophobia was caused by direct conditioning experience.

A conditioning experience is a combination of two stimuli. When stimulus 1 occurs, stimulus 2 appears. In the case that we present, a person may have suffered from a bad experience at work by chance.The person then associates the workplace with this negative experience.

As a result of this association, the stimulations linked to this place acquire the negative properties of the experience previously lived. Whenever the person faces this type of work-related stimulation, she reacts with symptoms of anxiety (worry, fear, catastrophic thoughts, sweating …).

As the person wishes to avoid or escape these anxiety responses, she will avoid all the stimuli related to her workstation. Whenever she avoids or escapes, she will feel better. She will learn to avoid or escape from these stimuli to agree to tranquility and well-being.

Does ergophobia cure?

The treatment of ergophobia, in the same way as the rest of the specific phobias is very limited. The treatment of choice for this type of phobia is exposure with prevention of response. By exposing ourselves to the stimulus that we fear, we will allow our anxiety to come down and break the association that we presented earlier.

If you think you can suffer from ergophobia, we recommend that you consult a specialized psychologist. It will give you the keys to regain normal behavior and allow you to go to work as you have always done.

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