All About Ergophobia: The Fear of Working

Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S

December 12, 2022

Ergophobia can be defined as an irrational, extreme, and sometimes severe fear of work and the surrounding features of work. This fear of work includes work-related tasks, social relationships, or public speaking. There are several reasons why individuals may experience ergophobia, like traumatic experiences in the workplace in the past. It’s important to note that ergophobia is not the standard before-work anxiety that many individuals feel on a Sunday or after a vacation. Ergophobia is a debilitating fear of work that results in individuals not seeking work, and in many cases, forgoing an income in place of being comfortable in their day-to-day life. In this post from the Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S blog, we’ll discuss all there is to know about ergophobia, including causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

What Causes Ergophobia? 

In most cases, phobias are acquired due to a negative or traumatic experience involving a particular stimulus, such as a toxic work environment. Those that suffer from ergophobia likely experienced a frightening or negative event in the workplace. Something like being embarrassed by a coworker or boss, an emotionally significant error, or sexual harassment are examples of some events that may cause lasting fear of work. Additionally, learning or hearing about a specifically bad work experience, such as violence or bullying, can also result in ergophobia. When someone avoids work due to this fear, it’s typical for this fear or anxiety to subside. This then creates an association between avoiding work and feeling safe and comfortable. The more an individual avoids the scary situation, in this case, work, the deeper the association between not going to work and feeling comfortable grows. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Ergophobia? 

The symptoms of ergophobia are similar to the symptoms of anxiety disorder. This is the case for just about any phobia out there. Ergophobia may result in frequently changing your job, long pauses between jobs, regularly missing work, and irrational fear regarding interactions with your boss or coworkers. Other symptoms of ergophobia include 

  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Panic attacks 
  • Inability to meet work requirements, like deadlines
  • Difficulty holding a job long term 
  • Long periods of not pursuing work 
  • Avoiding additional work-related responsibilities 
  • Underemployment, or working fewer jobs or at a job in which you are overqualified 

These are the most common symptoms of ergophobia, much of which is in line with the symptoms of anxiety disorder. Therefore, much of the treatment of ergophobia is similar to the treatment of anxiety disorder. 

How Is Ergophobia Treated? 

The treatment of ergophobia is similar to that of other anxiety disorder. This means that instead of treating your actual fear of work, a therapist will treat the anxiety that is caused by your fear of work. Treatments for ergophobia include

  • Exposure therapy: exposure therapy is considered to be the most effective treatment for phobias, including ergophobia. In many cases, exposure therapy for ergophobia will stimulate work-like experiences, including giving a presentation in a meeting, to evoke the anxiety that this situation causes. Then, the therapist will provide the patient with real-time coping techniques to allow them to get through the process. Eventually, this will work up to more realistic situations, like facing a job interview or other fear-inducing work activities so that the individual can overcome their fear entirely. 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is another popular treatment for phobias, and helps individuals learn to manage the negative fears that come with working. Therapists will ask clients to think about some of the least frightening aspects of working, and eventually lead up to the most frightening aspects of their phobia, all along the way teaching them about different ways to manage these intrusive thoughts.
  • Medication: for the most severe cases of ergophobia, therapists may recommend medication as a form of treating the anxiety related to work. These medications would be the same as those used to treat anxiety disorder. 

For Ergophobia Treatment in Austin, TX, Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates Are Here For You 

Louis Laves-Webb has helped countless individuals overcome ergophobia in the post-pandemic world. To learn more about how we can help you overcome ergophobia, give us a call or contact us online today. 

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