Workplace phobia, workplace problems, and work ability among primary care patients with chronic mental disorders

J Am Board Fam Med. 2014 Jul-Aug;27(4):486-94. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2014.04.130308.


Purpose: Work-related anxieties are frequent and have a negative effect on the occupational performance of patients and absence due to sickness. Most important is workplace phobia, that is, panic when approaching or even thinking of the workplace. This study is the first to estimate the prevalence of workplace phobia among primary care patients suffering from chronic mental disorders and to describe which illness-related or workplace-specific context factors are associated with workplace phobia.

Methods: A convenience sample of 288 primary care patients with chronic mental disorders (70% women) seen by 40 primary care clinicians in Germany were assessed using a standardized diagnostic interview about mental disorders and workplace problems. Workplace phobia was assessed by the Workplace Phobia Scale and a structured Diagnostic and Statical Manual of Mental Disorders-based diagnostic interview. In addition, capacity and participation restrictions, illness severity, and sick leave were assessed.

Results: Workplace phobia was found in 10% of patients with chronic mental disorders, that is, approximately about 3% of all general practice patients. Patients with workplace phobia had longer durations of sick leave than patients without workplace phobia and were impaired to a higher degree in work-relevant capacities. They also had a higher degree of restrictions in participation in other areas of life.

Conclusions: Workplace phobia seems to be a frequent problem in primary care. It may behoove primary care clinicians to consider workplace-related anxiety, including phobia, particularly when patients ask for a work excuse for nonspecific somatic complaints.

Keywords: Anxiety; Mental Health; Sick Leave; Workplace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Phobic Disorders / complications
  • Phobic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Workplace / psychology*

Supplementary concepts

  • Phobia, Specific