Anxiety in the Workplace: Mental Health Facts

Businessman with headache

Those of us who suffer from anxiety disorders know all too well that this condition can exacerbate or interact negatively with daily stress at work. It’s estimated that one-third of American adults have experienced anxiety at various life intervals and that 18% live with it daily. The people most vulnerable appear to be women and people between the ages of 15 and 34, but anyone can be impacted by anxiety in the workplace.

Mental Health Facts

It’s important you learn the facts about anxiety because it occurs in many forms.

Fear and loathing. Anxiety disorders encompass myriad conditions characterized by extreme fear and apprehension. Other behaviors include avoidance of feared objects (such as bugs or public toilets) and problems in functioning in daily life.

Symptoms are psychological and physical. They can include intense fear, panic and/or intrusive thoughts related to the things you are anxious about. Physically, you may break out in a sweat, tremble and shake, feel like your stomach is upset or even have difficulty speaking.

It manifests in many ways. It may be a generalized anxiety disorder in which you focus excessively on a number of things that trouble you — money, relationships, health, children, work or daily life. You may be prone to being a “worrier” and experience repetitive thoughts about things that make you nervous, or it could be a more specific anxiety condition, including:

  • Separation anxiety from the home or a specific person
  • Irrational fears and phobias about specific places, items or events
  • Intolerance and discomfort with social interactions
  • Sudden panic attacks that include being gripped by terror and a feeling of losing control that may come with sweating, dizziness, breathing difficulties and increased heart rate

Workplace Anxiety

There are many things in your job that may make you anxious:  a general feeling of being overwhelmed, deadline pressures and feeling as if you’re failing. You may have issues with co-workers or bosses or an underlying worry that you could lose your job.

The facts about anxiety make it clear that for people who suffer from the condition, normal workday problems can seem severe. For example, everyone makes mistakes. The average worker might feel bad and do their best to quickly correct a mistake. However, if you have a panic disorder, crippling symptoms can prevent you from fixing the problem and instead send you into a full-blown panic episode.

Anxiety in the workplace shows up in other ways. You may have difficulty focusing on what has to get done, or feel restless and fatigued. Productivity can drop, and along with it your sense of pride about your work.

Employers Need to Help

Anxiety in the workplace and related mental health facts clearly point to a need for employers to prepare for and address anxiety disorders. Low productivity, missed days and disability claims may indirectly contribute to the $4.1 billion in costs pegged to the disorder.

Government guidelines and recommendations for a healthier workplace for people with anxiety disorder include positive reinforcement, employee assistance programs and referrals to counseling, allowing workers to make calls to doctors and emotional support professionals, and sensitivity training for coworkers.

Another recommendation is for employees to take breaks during the day and use stress management techniques to cope with frustration. This is a good strategy even for mild anxiety. Take a few minutes to center yourself as needed in emergencies and throughout the course of the day.

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