Ergophobia is the deep and persistent fear of work. The other names for this phobia are Ergasiophobia, or ‘work aversion’. Both the terms are derived from Greek ergon meaning work and phobos which comes from the Greek God of fear. Ergophobia is a part of social anxiety disorder. The individuals suffering from it are afraid to seek employment from fear of being yelled at by superiors, or, in general, due to performance or social anxiety. Ergophobia is thus a complex phobia as it may be part of many different phobias or mental issues. For example, the sufferer might be afraid of performing manual labor due to the fear of getting injured. However, many Ergophobic individuals are also afraid of non-manual labor. In general, most fear of work phobics are afraid of socializing with others.
Naturally, the phobia can be deeply debilitating as the phobic is always dependent on others for food and money and might have strained relations with loved ones. Sometimes s/he is even unable to seek help for the condition owing to limited financial resources.
Causes of fear of work phobia
Fear of work phobia can affect 2 types of people: ones who have held jobs before or those who have never worked before in their life. There are many underlying causes of this phobia:
- Schizophrenia- This is a mental disorder which can lead to fear of social situations.
- Fear of rejection – The phobic might have held a job before but might have been fired abruptly. This leads to his/her fearing rejection that causes permanent Ergophobia.
- Some medical drugs or sleep disorders or stress can lead to Ergophobia. Weariness and fatigue are common side effects of many drugs prescribed for depression. The condition thus becomes a vicious cycle in that; the phobic might have sought help for his phobia only to be prescribed anti-anxiety medicines that indirectly enhance his phobia.
- Traumatic or negative incident- A work related injury or incident, harassment or bullying by co-workers, robbery or hostage situation at the workplace can lead to post traumatic stress disorder. Performance anxiety or fear of failing assigned tasks or the fear of speaking before groups could lead to fear of work phobia.
- Looking for a job often entails giving lengthy interviews and socializing with colleagues, bosses etc. To someone who is already of an anxious mindset or is suffering from nervous disorders of some sort; this can be a stressful situation that can lead to permanent work aversion or phobia.
- Clinical depression or neurological dysfunctions- Clinically depressed individuals are more likely to suffer from deep dread about job hunting. Likewise, people with neurological issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorders etc are also likely to avoid work.
Symptoms of Ergophobia
Many people experience aversion to getting up daily and going to work but in case of Ergophobia, the individual suffers from a very serious problem in that; simply the thought of work is enough to cause a full blown panic attack. The symptoms of this include:
- Feeling dizzy, nauseated, sweaty and breathless
- Phobics describe feeling “foggy” or detached from reality. S/he is unable to express himself clearly, or cannot hear or interpret what is being said. They feel their memory is drained.
- Often, to observers, the phobic appears normal. However, internally, a plethora of reactions are going on in his mind: these include feeling like running away or hiding, feeling like crying, having thoughts of death etc.
- Apart from avoiding work, phobics might also turn to substance abuse, alcohol or drugs to counter the phobia. These end up making matters worse.
Extreme Ergophobia leads the phobic to stay away from work for many days leading to termination or demotions. This further enhances his fear of work. Additionally, there are other complications like strained relationships, divorce, piling debt, neglect of personal health, hygiene, belongings etc. In many cases, the person might lose his home, or suffer from severe malnourishment etc.
Treatment for overcoming the fear
Seeking assistance from mental health therapists is the best solution for overcoming Ergophobia. This is however, often difficult as the phobic might not have the resources to do so. Psychotherapy, counseling, hypnotherapy and talk therapy with group support are some effective treatment options for this phobia. However, their success rates vary based on the time and length of treatment.
Seeking job counseling can help one find something of one’s interest. The phobic can also try to start his/her business or look for work from home options.
Systematic desensitization or gradual exposure therapy can also work in that; the person could try to work part time and gradually increase the hours until full time is achieved. These are a few ways of overcoming Ergophobia.