How to Disclose Generalized Anxiety Disorder at Work

Anxious man leaning against a wall and talking to colleague

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Going to work is part of daily life for most people in the world. A job can provide meaning, importance, and the opportunity to have a desirable standard of living. However, experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can make productive work extremely difficult.

Being successful and satisfied in your career is a key reason to manage the disorder, but choosing to disclose your GAD diagnosis to your boss or coworkers can be tricky. Here's what you need to know to navigate that decision.

Deciding When to Disclose

Making the decision to talk to your employer about GAD can be quite stressful and anxiety-provoking. The first step is figuring out why to disclose—and when.

Taking a realistic look at how well you are functioning, how much the disorder is affecting your productivity and completion of job responsibilities, and what you would hope to gain by telling someone, are all key factors to consider.

Reasons you might want to disclose your condition at work include:

  • Obtaining accommodations afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Helping your employer better understand your needs
  • Adjustments to schedule in order to allow you to obtain treatment

While there are good reasons to disclose your condition, it is also important to consider the potential downsides of sharing your diagnosis with your employer. Stigma, changed treatment or expectations, and loss of privacy are just a few points to consider.

If it's affecting your work, you may decide to disclose a GAD diagnosis to your employer when asking about accommodations or assistance.

Research Employer Policies

Next, become familiar with company policies and accommodations for employees with psychiatric diagnoses. Most workplaces have some policies in place for medical conditions and other life circumstances that may affect employees, so doing your homework first can make it easier to navigate this process.

You should also gauge how much the disclosure would affect your standing with your company. If you are in a job where you feel like you may be treated unfairly after disclosure, then weigh this into the decision.

You cannot be required to disclose a mental health condition unless you are requesting a job accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who disclose physical and mental health conditions. 

Who to Tell at Work

Finally, decide who to would talk with. Generally, the two best resources for employees with any type of psychological issue are a disability officer, or someone representing your employee assistance program.

If neither of these exists then consider working with your treatment provider to determine the best person to talk with. The most common office to contact at work about such issues is the human resources or personnel department.

How to Talk to Your Employer

Before you approach your employer, consider some details such as how you will describe your condition, how your condition affects your job performance, and what your employer can do to help. You should also think about how much information you feel comfortable sharing with your employer. 

Next, set up a meeting with the appropriate person to discuss the issue with, which will often be a person in human resources. After disclosing your condition, you may be asked to provide information provided by your doctor or therapist to document your condition.

After you have disclosed your condition, discuss what accommodations or adjustments would be helpful. Some examples of things you might request:

  • Changes in work hours
  • Adjustments to your work area
  • The option to work remotely when necessary
  • Schedule adjustments to accommodate treatment
  • Alterations in tasks to help reduce stress

For more information on this decision, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).