Telling Your Employer That You Have Social Anxiety Disorder

Tips For Telling Your Employer That You Have SAD

A diagnosis of social anxiety disorder can be shared with an employer.
Only share your diagnosis if it makes sense to do so. Getty / Hero Images

Telling your employer that you have social anxiety disorder (SAD) can be difficult. If you’ve been diagnosed with SAD and have received treatment, you need to decide whether or not to tell your employer (or potential employer) about your condition.

The choice is yours—you can choose to disclose or not disclose, and you can choose at what time you wish to disclose.

Deciding on Disclosure

You might be asking, "Why would I want to disclose my condition?"

Reasons can include

  • not wanting to “hide” a condition
  • wanting to educate others about the condition
  • needing accommodations at work

At the same time, there are barriers to disclosure, such as the stigma associated with having a mental health condition and potential discrimination by employers and coworkers.

Americans With Disabilities Act

The good news is that any individual with a psychiatric disability is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Anxiety disorders, and SAD in particular, fall under this designation. Under the ADA, you are not required to disclose your psychiatric disability unless you wish to request accommodations in the workplace.

No Disclosure Required

By the same token, a potential employer is not allowed to ask whether you have a disability during the hiring process. They may, however, make a job offer conditional on a medical examination. This medical examination must be required of all job candidates, not just those suspected of having a disability.

If your potential employer discovers a disability during the examination, he or she may inquire about the nature of the disability. In this situation, it is best to be prepared to thoroughly explain the disorder and also detail the skills and abilities you possess that will enable you to fulfill the job requirements.

Timing of Disclosure

The ADA stipulates that an employee may disclose his condition at any point—

  • before applying
  • during the interview
  • after a job offer
  • or anytime after starting a job

Your reason for disclosing will probably dictate when you decide to disclose, and who you disclose to.

Requesting Accommodations

If you need special accommodations during the hiring process, you may choose to speak with human resources at that time.

If you require accommodations once on the job such as

  • telecommuting
  • flexible hours
  • or changes to elements of the working environment

it might be more appropriate to discuss accommodations directly with your supervisor.

At the very least, don’t wait to tell your employer about your disorder until it is too late and your work has suffered. Disclosure done early and in good faith is more likely to be met with a positive response.

How Much to Tell?

When deciding whether or not to disclose, you will also want to consider how detailed of a description of your disability you wish to provide.

SAD is a relatively poorly understood diagnosis, and many employers may not be familiar with the disorder.

If your goal is for your employer and coworkers to have a better understanding of the symptoms that you experience, you may wish to describe SAD and the limitations that it may place on you at work.

Doing so may be particularly helpful in the case of SAD, since people may otherwise perceive your anxiety as aloofness or an unwillingness to be a team player.

Planning What to Say

It may also be helpful to plan what you are going to say ahead of time. Here is an example of what someone with SAD might say to an employer:

“I’d like to tell you about a condition that I have called social anxiety disorder. I have received treatment for SAD, and I’m in recovery. But, I may have anxiety in during performance and social situations. I will have physical symptoms, such as shaking hands or sweating, during these anxiety attacks. Here is the number of my therapist who can provide any information that you might need about my ability to handle the job.”

Depending on your situation, you might mention specific accommodations that would help you perform better at work.

For those with SAD, these might include

  • writing reports instead of presenting in front of a group
  • communicating through email instead of in person
  • or having a private workspace

Ideally, during and after treatment, you should try not to avoid doing these sorts of activities. However, during times of stress or if symptoms reoccur, it is important to have options that allow you to meet your obligations at work. Employers are obliged to grant requests for accommodations unless they can show that it would place undue hardship on them.

In the end, only you who can decide whether or not to disclose your condition. If you are job-hunting, it may be worth researching companies to see which ones are known for being accepting of persons with disabilities.

If you decide against disclosure, make sure that you have other support in place to help you cope. If you do decide to disclose, know

  • what the job entails
  • how you can meet those demands
  • and what accommodations you might need

Most of all, arm yourself with knowledge both about SAD and about your rights in the workplace. Doing so will make it easier for you to cope with SAD while at work.

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