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Work aversion (or aversion to work) is the state of avoiding or not wanting to work or be employed, or the extreme preference of leisure as opposed to work. It can be attributed to laziness, boredom or burnout; most underachievers suffer from some work aversion.
Work aversion usually occurs in persons who have previously been employed, and can have a variety of causes. These include:
- Boredom with work: Holding a boring job early in life can lead to the impression later that all work is boring.
- Depression: A person who is suffering from clinical depression, dysthymia, grief, or other similar disorders may lack the motivation to work.
- Social anxiety disorder
- Avoidant personality disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Due to neurological dysfunction, the person becomes preoccupied with anxiety-based obsessions, and performs compulsive behaviors in order to cope with their anxiety. They are therefore unable to redirect their attention toward a job or employment search.
- Panic disorder: For some, merely finding oneself in a work environment can trigger a panic attack. After such an occurrence, many are reluctant to seek further employment.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder: The person has suffered from a traumatic experience at an earlier job. This may be a physical injury suffered on the job, a scary event that occurred while at work (such as a robbery of the place of employment), severe harassment or bullying from fellow employees, or abuse from one's boss or employer.
- Abrupt termination: A former employee who was fired or laid off from an earlier job may be fearful of seeking future employment on the basis that such rejection may recur again.
- Phobia: Some persons are simply phobic of the workplace.
- Negative symptoms of schizophrenia
- Side effects of medication, such as weariness and fatigue
- Insomnia or various problems with sleep
- The effects of chronic health problems, including cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and many others, may interfere with a person's ability to work
Since the term work aversion only applies to those with a need to earn income, complications will inevitably arise from lacking the money the subject needs from employment. These may include:
- Loss of assets, as one lives off his/her savings and liquidates other assets, including mortgaging his/her home.
- Debt and credit problems
- Self-neglect. This may include malnourishment, since the subject may be unable to afford a sufficient diet, or neglect of one's personal appearance or hygiene in ways that may cost the subject money or may make giving a good impression to a potential employer more difficult.
- Neglect of dependents, such as spouse and children, who one is expected to support. Work aversion is responsible for many cases of divorce and broken families.
- Neglect of personal belongings, such as one's home, car, or other possessions requiring maintenance, or loss of services that require payment of a monthly bill, such as utilities, phone service, insurance.
- Strained relations with family and friends, especially those who are forced to support the unemployed subject, or those who otherwise expect the subject to have money or items of value.
- Strained marriage, when financial problems hurt marriage
- Reduced socialization, especially in cases where the subject is in need of money to support such interaction.
- Homelessness, in most severe cases.
- Suicide, due to social pressures to work and in many countries, a legal requirement to register for JSA (welfare/unemployment) if unemployed.
- Imprisonment or community service and a criminal record, in many countries, it is/was a criminal offense to refuse to work and just to live off unearned income.
The mental health community does not recognize work aversion as an illness or disease and therefore no medically recognized treatments exist. Those attempting to treat work aversion as an illness may use psychotherapy, counseling, medication, or some more unusual forms of treatment. Depending on the cause, lengths of treatment and success rates may vary.
In the case where the person has not worked for a while due to a workplace injury, work-hardening can be used to build strength. The person works for a brief period of time in the first week, such as two hours per day and increases the amount of work each week until full-time hours are reached.
Work aversion is not a recognized psychological disorder in the DSM-IV.
- Disability fraud
- Work ethic
- Work-leisure dichotomy
- Refusal of work
- Goofing off
- Boyes, Roger (2007-09-15). "Forget burnout, boreout is the new office disease". The Times. London.
- Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal - Eric Schlosser - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-07-04.
- Roger B. Hil. "Historical Context of the Work Ethic". workethic.coe.uga.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
- The Abolition of Work, a 1985 essay by Bob Black.
- The Abolition of Work and Other Myths, Neala Schleuning, (Summer, 1995), a response to Black's essay