Working is one of the vital needs of the human being and is key to emotional balance, because it allows for good economic health, improved self-esteem, meeting new people, etc. Those individuals who really enjoy their work are lucky, as we spend many hours of the day at 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 ergo-phobia or fear of work . In this article we will talk about this type of phobia and explain in detail what its characteristics are.

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 negative in the sense that its symptoms can produce discomfort. In fact, this emotion can become adaptive , by warning us of a real danger that can put our life in danger.

However, beings can also feel fear when they possess a set 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” .

Many people 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 out in this article: “The 15 rarest phobias that exist”).

The human being 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 him/her discomfort, and this avoidance behavior can interfere with the normal functioning of his/her daily life. Phobias are included in the group of psychopathologies called “anxiety disorders” .

Characteristics of ergo-phobia or fear of work

Working 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday is considered normal, but work can cause us a number of problems such as work-related stress or burnout if we don’t like our job or if we are demanded too much in 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 of being in the workplace can cause exaggerated discomfort. This fear is called ergo-phobia.

Ergo-phobes have a persistent fear of work, which can lead to serious problems in their lives. Of course, work is a necessity to obtain minimum goods, and avoiding it can bring, among other consequences, economic problems . Although the person with ergo-phobia will try to avoid fearful situations such as going to work, in some cases, he or she may have difficulties in 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 fearful stimuli so as not to feel bad. While this is a very common way of suffering from specific phobias, other phobias, those that are more complex, can be caused by other reasons. For example, researchers believe that there are other causes that influence the development of social phobia or agoraphobia.

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

Other causes of this phobia

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

In short, the causes of ergo-phobia are:

  • Traumatic experiences at work. For example, making fun of co-workers.
  • Anxious personality.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Other fears. For example, to be rejected, to make presentations, etc.
  • Genetic factors.


The symptoms of ergo-phobia are no different from other phobic disorders. Ergophobia often has physical, cognitive and behavioural symptoms .

  • Rapid heartbeat and increased heart rate.
  • Rapid breathing and choking sensation.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Upset stomach and headache.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Sense of unreality.
  • Distress.
  • Loss of concentration.
  • Avoidance behaviour.


Individuals suffering from this disorder are often aware that they have a problem, but do not always seek help .

To overcome this disorder it is necessary to see a 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 the anxious symptoms. However, drug treatment should always be combined with psychological therapy.

As for psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to be very effective in treating phobias, since it includes a series of techniques that help overcome the pathology. Expository techniques and systematic desensitization are, without doubt, the most used, because they expose the patient to the feared situation and allow him/her to experience the irrationality of his/her beliefs. However, Cognitive Behavioural 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.