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How to Combat Anxiety Disorder in the Workplace

If you have been struggling to manage symptoms of an anxiety disorder in the workplace, you are not alone. 

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that nearly 20% of adults in the United States had an anxiety disorder in the previous 12 months. 

In addition to affecting the productivity and satisfaction of millions of people in the workplace, anxiety disorders have also had a dramatic economic impact.

A 2016 study that was led by Dr. Dan Chisholm of the World Health Organization found that expanded access to treatment for anxiety disorders and depressive disorders throughout the world could add more than $700 billion to the global economy.

What Is an Anxiety Disorder?

In everyday language, anxiety is often a synonym for nervousness or apprehensiveness. 

In clinical terms, anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness. These disorders are characterized by distressing feelings such as excessive worry or fear, along with behavioral changes that result from these feelings. 

The various forms of anxiety disorders are differentiated primarily by what events or sets of circumstances cause a person to experience symptoms.

For example, people who have specific phobia experience great fear due to a specific object, animal, or event. Flying, spiders, and needles are common triggers for specific phobia.

The symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include an intense fear of losing an important person as a result of kidnapping, becoming lost, death, and several other scenarios.

Social anxiety disorder, which is also sometimes called social phobia, can cause a person to become overwhelmed by fear at the thought of speaking in public, meeting new people, eating in a restaurant, or being in other environments where they feel they may be judged by other people.

People who have a generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, may have significant fear or worry related to an ever-changing series of situations. People with generalized anxiety in the workplace may become consumed by misplaced fears that they will make a glaring error, miss an appointment, or lose their job.

In these and other types of anxiety disorders, what’s most important is that the symptoms are much more severe, and last much longer, than is justified by the perceived threat. 

For example, it’s completely normal and understandable to be worried when awaiting the results of a certain medical test. But if a person lives in perpetual fear that they may contract a serious illness, this may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. 

What Are the Symptoms of An Anxiety Disorder?

The main symptoms of an anxiety disorder in the workplace are disproportionate fear and worry, along with altered behaviors to avoid the cause of the unpleasant feelings. 

Both the emotions and the behavioral changes can be sources of extreme distress, to the point that they make it difficult for a person to live a full, satisfying life.

For example, a person who has specific phobia related to needles may delay seeking medical attention due to fear that they will need to have blood drawn or receive an injection. In another case, someone who has social anxiety disorder may pass up opportunities to advance in their career because either the interview process or the job requirements that come with a promotion are sources of intense psychological pain.

Although anxiety disorders are mental health conditions, they can also cause physical symptoms. The fear that a person develops may be accompanied by racing heart rate, excessive sweating, elevated body temperature, chest pains, breathing difficulties, and dizziness or lightheadedness.

Coping With an Anxiety Disorder in the Workplace

Understandably, the workplace can present many challenges to people who have anxiety disorders. Virtually every type of anxiety disorder has the potential to undermine a person’s performance and comfort at work.

Thankfully, there are many ways to cope with an anxiety disorder in the workplace. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Select an appropriate career path: If you have a debilitating fear of public speaking, you may not be suited to a career as a traditional public school teacher. But if you still want to work in the education field, a job as a career counselor or private tutor, where you will mostly be working in a one-on-one or small-group environment, may be a great fit for you.
  • Educate your supervisor: Good leaders want to put people in positions where they can succeed. If there are certain aspects of your job that have been causing you significant distress due to an anxiety disorder, talk to your boss or another appropriate person at your organization. Making a minor change in responsibilities can lead to major improvements in both your personal satisfaction and your job performance. 
  • Talk to a trusted colleague: If you work with someone that you trust, having an honest conversation about your struggles may be beneficial. This person may be able to help you strategize ways to avoid situations that can trigger anxiety symptoms. If you can’t avoid these circumstances completely, you may be able to come up with ways to respond to triggers in a manner that won’t negatively impact your job or your health. 
  • Practice self-care: Follow a healthy diet and exercise plan. Get an appropriate amount of sleep every night. Find enjoyable, relaxing ways to enjoy your evenings and weekends (or whatever days and times you’re not at work). These practices alone cannot eliminate anxiety from your life, but they can help you manage stress and develop resilience. 
  • Get professional help. You should never be ashamed to get help when you need it. This includes seeking mental health treatment for an anxiety disorder or any other concern. Treatment can put you on the path toward improved overall quality of life. During treatment, you can also learn how to effectively manage the symptoms of an anxiety disorder in the workplace.

Find Anxiety Rehab in Atlanta

Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers personalized treatment and compassionate support to adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area whose lives have been affected by anxiety disorders. Our anxiety rehab offers multiple levels of care and a dynamic array of therapies and services. We are uniquely prepared to help people manage their symptoms so they can live healthier and more satisfying lives. Call today or visit our admissions page to learn how we can help.