About Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders affect millions of American adults. These disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, acute stress disorder, substance-induced anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder due to a general medical condition, anxiety disorder not otherwise specified, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, and specific phobias. Anxiety disorders are clinically distinct from transitional anxiety experienced during events such as a wedding, moving into a new home, dealing with the illness or death of a loved one, or beginning a new job. Individuals with anxiety disorders may experience feelings of panic; extreme physical, mental, or emotional stress; and intense fear. Due to the highly individualized nature of mental health impairments, symptoms can present in numerous ways and significantly impact the functionality of individuals with Anxiety Disorders.
Anxiety Disorder and the Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
Accommodating Employees with Anxiety Disorder
People with anxiety may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with anxiety will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
A large metropolitan police department employed a records specialist who was finding it increasingly difficult to complete the essential functions of his position.
The increase in violent crime over the last several years had taken a toll on the employee, causing increased anxiety, stress, and emotional breakdowns. Attendance was also becoming an issue. When the employee discussed his options for reasonable accommodation with his supervisor, he was pleased to discover several open positions he was qualified for that would take him out of the particular area that was causing his mental health condition to deteriorate.
A postal employee with PTSD requested accommodations to help him deal with recurring flashbacks.
His flashbacks were triggered by the smell of gasoline and the noise from the mail truck. The employee tried wearing a respirator to give him a clean air supply. He also tried wearing headphones to reduce the noise from the truck, but he still experienced stress and edginess. JAN suggested a position transfer as an accommodation. JAN also suggested allowing this employee to take a break when he experiences extreme anxiety and allow him to use relaxation and visualization techniques in a private space on the job.
A professor with ASD had difficulty keeping daily office hours and experienced anxiety because the timing of students' consultations was unpredictable.
JAN suggested modifying the schedule as an accommodation, for example the professor could reduce the number of days he has office hours, but have more office hours on those days. JAN also suggested adjusting the method by which students obtain appointments, asking students to schedule at least one day in advance and when possible, allow the professor to conduct consultations electronically, by phone, or by instant messenger. In addition, JAN suggested documenting each student consultation to ease the professor's anxiety about the meeting and to refresh his memory about previous meetings with the student.
A prison guard, recently attacked by an inmate, has PTSD and anxiety.
The prison guard was fearful of returning to the worksite, even to discuss her return-to-work options. A JAN consultant offered the following suggestions: allow the employee to bring a support person or support animal to the meeting, move the meeting to an alternative location, or allow the employee to attend the meeting via telephone.
An employer was notified that the only supervisor he had in a particular department had a phobia towards a specific group of people.
The supervisor asked to be excused from supervising a new employee from this people group. Since she was the only supervisor in that area, the employer could not remove the duty or give it to another. By attending the meetings himself with the supervisor and this particular employee, the employer was able to reduce the anxiety the supervisor was feeling and eventually enable her to meet with the person (and others) without the extra support.
An employer, trying to accommodate an employee returning to work after a leave, had questions about the stress of required travel that escalated the employee’s depression and anxiety.
The employer was advised to continue on in the interactive process to discover what specifically about the travel was stressful so they could determine accommodations for those identified issues. Examples of questions to ask could include what particularly about the travel causes the stress that heightens the depression, such as the length of the travel, the distance, the planning process, or even specific modes of travel and/or locations.
An administrative assistant with PTSD works at a museum, which is currently under construction.
Construction workers, who were strangers, caused the employee extreme anxiety. As an accommodation, a JAN consultant suggested temporarily relocating the employee’s work space away from the construction area. The museum also developed an ID badge for construction workers and required them to sign in at their job locations.
A retail manager who travels a fair distance in rush hour traffic asked to be reassigned to a location nearer her home where she could commute on less traveled local roads that would cause her much less anxiety.
Her request was denied because there were no openings in the store closest to her, and her position in her current location was needed there. She was given the choice of a schedule change as an accommodation so that she could arrive slightly before / after the rush hour.
An employee with anxiety and a driving phobia takes public transportation to work.
After a company restructure, the employee was moved to work in a new location that would necessitate a lengthy commute involving two buses and a train. She disclosed her disability and asked for accommodations. She was accommodated by remaining at her current location, with a change in supervisor to the one who would oversee the employees in that location. Although her current supervisor was going to the new location, her job would remain the same.
A veteran who is now an office employee has PTSD and anxiety.
He is easily frightened when being approached unsuspectingly. This employee works in a structured cubicle environment facing his computer and cubicle walls, with his back to the cubicle entrance. He wants to be alerted when a coworker or supervisor walks into the cubicle behind him. JAN suggested using a monitor-mounted mirror, so he could see the entrance behind him. JAN also suggested placing a sensor mat at the entrance of the cubicle, which will make an audible alert when someone steps on it.
JAN Publications & Articles Regarding Anxiety Disorder
Consultants' Corner Articles
- No Articles available for Anxiety Disorder