Ergophobia: causes and characteristics of fear of work

Working is one of the vital needs of the human being and is key to emotional balance because it allows to have good economic health, improve self-esteem, meet new people, etc. Those individuals who really enjoy their work are fortunate since we spend many hours of the day in it.

But being bad at work seriously affects our psychological health and can mark us. In fact, some subjects may experience what is known as ergophobia or fear of work. In this article, we will talk about this type of phobia and we will explain in detail what its characteristics are.

Ergophobia: Causes and characteristics of fear of work

What are phobias

Fear is one of the negative emotions that every human being experiences. But it is not that fear is negative in itself, but that it is labeled as negative in the sense that its symptoms can cause discomfort. In reality, this emotion can become adaptive, warning us of a real danger that can put our life in danger.

However, beings can also feel fear when they have a series of irrational beliefs or have unreal or imaginary ideas about a thing or situation in mind. This irrational fear can turn into a psychological disorder called “phobia

And there are many people who experience phobias in any of their forms: aerophobia or fear of flying, philophobia or fear of falling in love, arachnophobia or fear of spiders … Some phobias can even be strange (you can check it in this article: ” The 15 weirdest phobias that exist ”).

Human beings can feel an irrational fear of practically everything that is perceived or imagined: clowns, spiders, colors, etc. One of the characteristics of this disorder is that the person suffering from a phobia does everything possible to avoid that stimulus that causes discomfort, and this avoidance behavior can interfere with the normal functioning of their daily life. Phobias are included within the group of psychopathologies called “anxiety disorders”.

Characteristics of ergophobia or fear of work

Working 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday is what is considered normal, but work can cause us a series of problems such as work stress or burnout if we do not like our work or if they demand too much of it. In extreme cases, some individuals may experience very high feelings of anxiety when they go to work, as well as intense fear that not only prevents them from performing their tasks correctly but also the fact that they appear at the workplace can cause an exaggeration discomfort. This fear is called ergophobia.

Ergophobia have a persistent fear of work, which can lead to serious problems in their life. Of course, work is a necessity to procure minimum goods, and avoiding it can bring, among other consequences, economic problems. Although the person with ergophobia will try to avoid dreaded situations such as going to work, in some cases, they may have difficulties meeting deadlines or making presentations.

Causes of the disorder

The causes of this disorder can be varied. Generally, a phobia is the consequence of a traumatic experience that the person associates with an initially neutral stimulus due to a classical conditioning process.

The experience of a stressful situation causes tremendous discomfort and anxiety, and the person tries to avoid a feared stimulus so as not to feel bad. Although this is a very common way of suffering from specific phobias, other phobias, those more complex, can be caused by other reasons. For example, researchers believe that there are other causes that play a role in developing social phobia or agoraphobia.

Work phobia can also be considered a complex phobia that, at times, can be the consequence of other fears, for example, having to make presentations in public, which would rather be typical of social phobia.

Other causes of this phobia

It can also happen that the person suffering from fear of work has a self-esteem problem. For example, an individual may be so concerned that he thinks that he will not be able to complete his tasks efficiently, and believes that his colleagues will hate him for not meeting the deadlines of his workgroup. This fear feeds the phobia even more and can cause the person to feel an intense fear when it comes to going to work.

In summary, the causes of ergophobia are:

  • Traumatic experiences at work. For example, teasing peers.
  • Anxious personality.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Other fears. For example, to be rejected, to make presentations, etc.
  • Genetic factors.


The symptoms of ergophobia do not differ from other phobic disorders. Ergophobia usually presents physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms.

  • Fast heartbeat and increased heart rate.
  • Rapid breathing and choking sensation.
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry mouth.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Upset stomach and headache.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Feeling of unreality.
  • Anguish.
  • Loss of concentration
  • Avoidant behaviors.


Individuals with this disorder are often aware that they have a problem but do not always seek help

To overcome this disorder it is necessary to go to the psychologist so that a correct diagnosis can be made. Generally, psychotherapy will be enough to overcome this condition; however, in extreme cases, some drugs may be used to help reduce anxiety symptoms. However, drug treatment should always be combined with psychological therapy.

Regarding psychotherapy,  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven to be very effective for the treatment of phobias, since it includes a series of techniques that help to overcome the pathology. Expository techniques and systematic desensitization are undoubtedly the most used because they expose the patient to the feared situation and allow him to experience the irrationality of his beliefs. However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also uses other very effective techniques, such as relationship techniques or cognitive restructuring. Other therapeutic methods such as Mindfulness can also be of great help to the patient.

Ergophobia: Causes and characteristics of fear of work