Workplace Phobia

Workplace phobia is characterized by a pronounced apprehensive reaction to the workplace or elements related to the workplace (e.g. coworkers, objects, situations). It is normal for one to occasionally be averse to his or her own job, but for someone with workplace phobia, a job becomes a source of such dread that he or she loses the ability to successfully complete work, or he or she takes a detrimental number of sick days. Still, others can lose their jobs altogether or lose their ability to find a new one. Some experts say that workplace phobia can often indicate other mental or emotional disorders, as well as other types of social phobia.

Symptoms of Workplace Phobia

Identifying workplace phobia may be easy. If the person who may have the disorder exhibits some of the following symptoms when exposed to work or work-related elements, he or she may have workplace phobia. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Excessive fear when confronted with workplace-related elements such as coworkers, superiors or work duties
  • Invariable panic attacks or extreme anxiety in response to workplace related elements
  • Denial that one’s own excessive reactions to work or workplace related elements is extreme or irrational
  • A significant decrease in the quality or quantity of one’s work performance
  • An noticeable decrease in anxiety or fear when workplace-related elements are not present or thought about

Causes of Workplace Phobia

Like all phobias, various unique factors and experiences contribute to a person’s development of workplace phobia. Some examples include workplace conflicts or a change in work environment or work regimen.

Regardless, if left untreated or unaddressed, this disorder only intensifies and creates a more adverse situation for the sufferer. The more the person with workplace phobia avoids work or situations reminiscent of work, the worse the phobia becomes. Since an increase in avoidance works as a type of reward for the phobic, he or she becomes less resistant to the factors that instigated the problem initially. This is why workplace phobia must be addressed as soon as possible. The sufferer’s coping abilities must be maintained in order to keep him or her from developing disorders that affect other aspects of social life and ultimately psychological health.

Treatment of Workplace Phobia

Like many phobias, treatment for the disorder is usually best left to a mental health practitioner. The goal of any such expert is to first target the initial inciting factor that caused the person’s irrational and extreme fear. The patient and therapist talk about why the fear unfounded, how they can come to terms with any traumatic experiences that caused the phobia, as well as ways to deal with the symptoms of the condition. This type of therapy is usually very effective, with a vast majority of patients completely overcoming or successfully coping with workplace phobia symptom-free for years, if not for the remainder of their lives.

Still, some therapists opt to use cognitive behavioral therapy, but it may not be a high-priority option to consider. With this type of treatment, the patient meets with the therapist, and in a systematic and gradual progression, confronts the source of fear while learning to control his or her physical and mental reactions to it. By facing the phobia head on, the patient becomes accustomed to it and thus ultimately realizes that his or her initial fears were not grounded in real or imminent danger.

However, with workplace phobia, this type of treatment is nearly impossible. Because a therapist and patient can seldom anonymously approach a workplace situation, allowing a gradual exposure to and resultant familiarization with the phobic elements, there is a risk of exacerbating the condition of the sufferer. Furthermore, the therapist has no control over the elements that may have spurred the phobia initially. Instead, many mental health experts opt to place the phobic in controlled workplace settings specifically chosen to be similar to those in which the patient’s problems seemed to have occurred. These “working trials” seem to have produced successful results. Furthermore, patients and therapists often find that becoming accustomed to newer work elements, such as technology, in a therapeutic environment can relieve many of the stresses associated with the phobia.

If you are searching for help with workplace phobia, finding it is quite easy. There are plenty of therapists and peer groups willing to help not only with the disorder but also the psychological difficulties attendant with it. If self-help is not working, do not hesitate to reach out to these resources for support.

View Resources

  • American Psychiatric Association – info about phobias in general, causes, treatment.
  • pdfcast.org – in-depth psychological case studies of workplace phobia as well as outlook for the disorder.
  • Wikipedia – definition of workplace phobia along with symptoms, causes and therapy.

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