The feelings of anxiety do not begin with the morning alarm bell. Nope, the anxiety about going to work is felt throughout the night with fitful, restless sleep. The mere idea of entering the workplace triggers waves of stress that threaten to undermine any effort to be productive and engaged at work, and often result in calling out sick.
Workplace phobia, according to a definition published in Psychology, Health & Medicine, is defined as “a phobic anxiety reaction with symptoms of panic occurring when thinking of or approaching the workplace.” Considering the serious consequences of having anxiety about going to work, this particular phobia can be particularly devastating to not only one’s professional life, but their personal life as well. Being unable to keep a job due to this type of phobia can have far-reaching and deleterious consequences.
This specific source of this type of anxiety has often been lumped in with various other disorders. These include obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. This is due to the features of the workplace phobia disorder, which can be recognized in these other forms of anxiety disorder. Finding a remedy is critical, and will likely involve a combination of therapies to help the individual overcome the dread and fear of going to work.
About Workplace Phobia
Individuals who have anxiety about going to work may exhibit a higher level of psychosomatic symptoms. These are the physical symptoms that can accompany a mental health condition, including gastrointestinal distress, migraines, pain, headaches, and fatigue, and often result in excessive absenteeism due to sick days. In fact one 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that 10% of patients with chronic mental health conditions who sought sick leave authorizations for their physical symptoms suffered from workplace phobia.
Identifying workplace phobia is essential in turning the ship around and overcoming a disorder that is negatively impacting quality of life. Employers also benefit from gaining an understanding of this type of anxiety, as loss of productivity related to paid sick days, having to hire temporary workers, and the impact on fellow coworkers are added costs to the business.
Intense irrational fear emerges when the individual thinks about or attempts to go to work. The triggering stimuli, such as encountering the supervisor or colleague, can cause symptoms like those of a specific phobia, such as:
- Hot flashes, chills
- Choking sensation
- Inability to face the trigger (enter the workplace)
- Chest pain, tightness
- Dry mouth
- Ringing in the ears
- Intensive fear when approaching or considering the workplace
- Shortness of breath
- Sensation of butterflies in the stomach
- Mental confusion, disorientation
- Rapid heart rate
- Reduction of symptoms when leaving or avoiding the workplace
When exposed to the workplace trigger, the symptoms are so uncomfortable and frightening that the anxiety about going to work can result in avoidance behaviors, thus the high rates of sick leave.
According to an article published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, There are several subtypes of work phobic, including:
- Work-related anxiety
- Work-related panic
- Work-related social phobia
- Work-related phobia
- Work-related generalized anxiety
- Work-related PTSD
What Causes Workplace Phobia or Workplace-related Anxiety?
Workplace phobia, also referred to as ergophobia, can have various causal factors. Aside from the existence of a disorder such as social anxiety, which can feature work-place anxiety or phobia features, other risk factors might include:
- Having had a prior work-related experience that was traumatic, such as sexual harassment or bullying
- Performance-based fears
- Fear of required oral presentations
- Ongoing interpersonal issues and conflicts with a superior
- Family history of social anxiety or phobia
- Multiple traumas or significant negative life events lead to coping or stress-management issues at work
How to Treat Workplace Phobia
Treating work-related anxiety will revolve around changing the thought distortions that lead to the avoidant behaviors or panic symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps patients identify the dysfunctional thought-behavior patterns and guide them toward reframing thoughts to eventually be able to cope when confronting the work-related trigger. Combining CBT with exposure therapies that help desensitize the patient to the triggering event or situation can yield positive results.
Medication also plays a role in treatment for workplace phobia or anxiety. Drugs that reduce anxiety, such as benzodiazepines or beta blockers, may help improve the individual’s ability to function in the workplace once again.
Certain holistic strategies can assist in the reduction of stress or anxiety symptoms. These might include yoga, guided meditation, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, getting regular exercise, and reducing caffeine intake.
Elevation Behavioral Health Treats Workplace Phobia and Workplace-related Anxiety
Elevation Behavioral Health is a luxury residential mental health program located in Los Angeles, California. The team at Elevation has crafted a highly effective treatment protocol for treating workplace phobia or anxiety, using an integrative approach. This includes the evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, adjunctive therapies, such as EMDR, and holistic therapies that provide additional coping skills through mindfulness training and meditation. For more information about our program, please contact Elevation Behavioral Health today at (888) 561-0868.