If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you may be wondering whether to tell your employer about your diagnosis. This is a personal decision with no right or wrong answers. By law, you are not required to tell your employer about your diagnosis. While some people feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis and have not suffered any consequences, others feel their diagnosis is personal and the employer has no right to this information. If you are wondering whether you should tell your employer, ask yourself the following questions first, then decide what is right in your situation.
1) Why do you want to tell your employer?
You might feel that your anxiety disorder is interfering with your ability to do your job or you may want to request accommodations at work under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Or you may feel stressed trying to hide your illness and want it out in the open, to help explain some of your behaviors in the workplace. Before making a decision, think about the reasons why you want to do this.
2) How do you think your boss will react?
Chances are, you have some type of relationship with your boss. You probably have had conversations with him or her in the past. You may know what their attitude is toward mental illness. You may know whether they have been supportive of co-workers with illnesses. But there are still a great many misconceptions about mental illness. Some people view anxiety disorder or other mental illnesses as an excuse to get out of doing something you don’t want to do. If you aren’t sure, try to strike up a conversation about mental illness to see your boss’ reaction. This can help you know ahead of time whether your boss show understanding about mental illness.
3) What do you want to say?
It is important to be prepared for any discussion about your illness at work. You may want to have some brochures or printing material explaining anxiety disorder. You will want to explain how anxiety disorder impacts your job and that you are receiving professional help to help you manage your condition.
4) How will you reassure your boss that your anxiety will not interfere with your ability to do your job?
Just as important as explaining your anxiety disorder, is explaining why you can continue to be responsible and complete your job duties. Think about your strengths and what you bring to the job. Reassure your boss that this will not change. You may want to explain your plan of action, for example, “I have an anxiety disorder. You may sometimes see certain behaviors, such as my extreme nervousness during group meetings, especially if I am required to speak in front of my co-workers. I want you to know that I am under a doctor’s care for this condition and am working on managing my illness. If I find there are ways my anxiety disorder interferes with my job, I will let you know. I would also appreciate it if you could let me know if you see these types of behaviors effecting my co-workers duties.” In this example, you have been professional, showed confidence and let your boss know of your plan to manage your illness.
5) What do you expect to gain?
There should be a benefit to you for disclosing your anxiety disorder. For example, if you decide you want to tell about your illness because you would like certain accommodations, then that would be the benefit to you. If you want to explain anxiety disorders so that managers and co-workers better understand your fear at getting up and speaking during meetings, you would have a benefit of understanding, but still may need to stand up and talk. If you want to have some of your job duties changed or given to another co-worker because they are too stressful to you, then this would be the benefit. No matter what your reason is, you should receive some benefit from having disclosed this information.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.