Wednesday 12 October 2022

Ways to Support Employees with Phobias

According to the NHS, “a phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation feeling, or animal. Phobias are more than pronounced fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.” While phobias can be treated professionally, they can affect a person’s behaviour, and this may become evident at their place of work.

Phobias often cause the person to avoid certain situations and can create intense feelings of anxiety or stress, which might result in nausea, nervous trembling and headaches. It’s important for employers to be aware of any phobias that their employees might have so that they can help them to feel at ease in their job. However, it is advised that the person with a phobia seeks professional treatment if it impacts their day-to-day life or causes them extreme anxiety, distress or fear.

Types of phobias

Phobias fall under five categories, including animals; natural environment; blood, injury or medical issues; situations such as driving, flying and lifts; and others such as drowning, loud noises and choking. 

Along with some of the more common phobias which include agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces) VeryWellMind has published a long list of identified phobias.

How to support an employee with a phobia

While there is professional help available for anyone with a phobia, there are certain steps an employer can take to help the employee in the meantime.

  1. Show respect and don’t mock or belittle them
  2. Avoid using phrases such as “get a grip” or “get over it” as this can cause the person even more anxiety.
  3. Be conscious not to put them in a situation that will aggravate or intensify the phobia. For example, don’t force them to take the lift if they have claustrophobia.
  4. Allow them the option of flexible home working if possible where there’s a chance they might suffer from anxiety.
  5. Allow them time off if they are attending a therapy session.
  6. Remove them from a situation if you can see that it’s making them feel anxious. You could also encourage them to do breathing exercises to help calm them down.
  7. Create a safe work environment for them so they aren’t exposed to anything that may cause them anxiety.
  8. Encourage them to seek professional help from a doctor or therapist.

If you work with someone who has a phobia, Mind has lots of useful information that offers advice and relevant contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about phobias and how to manage them in our FREE booklet, "Understanding Phobias" Download it here >