Tuesday, March 28, 2023 | Ramadan 5, 1444 H
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Ergophobia is fear of work

‘Ergophobia’ is described as an extreme, irrational and debilitating fear of working and work related features such as performing tasks, social relationships, or speaking in work settings.

A young man in his mid twenties walks into my clinic with his parents who were very concerned about him.

He has been a job seeker for over three years yet after his first day at work he informed them he wanted to leave the job. Asked if the job required hard physical labour, he answered “quite the opposite. All I have to do is to promote video games to people who walk into the store.”

The store had a central air conditioner and was located inside a shopping mall. The young man had an hour lunch break that he could take whenever he wanted and the mall had a variety of food outlets, the salary was reasonable. His parents were puzzled, he answered, “it’s the commitments that I hate, having to report to work at a certain time and ask my manager before taking a break.”

One would argue that this young man got used to the comfort of being a jobseeker. Being able to sleep and wake up whenever he wants and go out or not whenever he pleases. That is why he found the commitment to work challenging.

Psychologists introduced the term “Ergophobia” to describe an extreme, irrational and debilitating fear of working and work related features such as performing tasks, social relationships, or speaking in work settings.

This is considered a form of mental illness when the symptoms persist for over six months and are not caused by other psychological problems like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalised anxiety, or another phobia.

People with ergophobia have exaggerated or irrational levels of fear and may avoid even applying for work or be chronically unemployed due to their fears. They may feel unduly stressed by common work situations, even when they are performing objectively well.

Some patients reject the idea of applying for jobs while others change jobs frequently, pause between jobs, or become extremely anxious about interactions with coworkers, or their boss.

Avoidance of taking on additional work responsibility and Inability to meet work deadlines are also common symptoms along with the physical manifestation of anxiety such as sweating, having racing heart or heart palpitations, dry mouth, and feeling suffocated or having difficulty catching one’s breath.

These symptoms can be confused with a heart attack.

So what causes a person to develop Ergophobia? Psychologists suggest that experiencing a negative or frightening event in a workplace such as bullying or being publicly embarrassed can cause a person to avoid going to work for fear of having the same experience again and again.

This avoidance becomes more I handed as the person stays away from work. This is why one of the main methods of treating Ergophobia is getting exposure to work while being supported by a psychologist.

Other therapies like Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) and cognitive behaviour therapy CBT can also help.

Finally, addressing the issue early and seeking professional advice can help the person get back to work and reach his potential.

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