Workplace Phobia definition

Workplace phobia refers to an acute anxiety response to thoughts of the workplace or experiences in the workplace.

Causes of workplace phobia are broad although the etiology is not well understood. Previous negative experiences of the workplace, such as bullying or intimidation, can cause individuals to develop workplace phobia, as can mental disorders which the social and constant nature of the workplace may make it difficult for individuals to hide.

Workplace phobia has received attention for several reasons; it’s a complex environment of stimuli, which makes the phobia more mysterious and perhaps pervasive than that of more simple stimuli such as flying or snakes. Avoiding the workplace is also much more destructive to personal development than avoiding snakes.

Treatment for workplace phobia is challenging because one of the most successful treatments for phobias – slow habituation which causes desensitisation – is difficult because the workplace can’t be recreated artificially and so the individual must undergo treatment in a public arena. Because of this, a combination of therapies, such as drugs and a development of coping strategies, is commonly used.

Some commentators argue that workplace phobia is not a separate disorder but an extension of a primary mental disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or social anxiety disorder. Even if workplace phobia is a symptom of a primary disorder, there’s a case to treat it in its own right due to its significant effects on an individual’s professional and personal lives.


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