Anxiety in the Workplace: What You Should KnowPhoto From pexels

Originally Posted On: Anxiety in the Workplace — HonestCulture


It should come as no surprise that American workers report high levels of stress and anxiety related to their jobs, especially now as companies have had to respond in less than ideal ways to the COVID-19 pandemic. Life events and situations, particularly those of which we have no control, tend to cause stress and anxiety levels to increase. However, there is a subset of people who experience symptoms almost everyday regardless of these factors, and their lives are interrupted in profound ways.

Chances are high that you know someone living with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. However, you may not know it because of the ongoing stigma that prevents people from disclosing their mental health disorder. This stigma can result in the characterizing of anxiety and other psychological disorders as weaknesses or excuses for attention. These misconceptions create barriers to understanding and prevent those with anxiety from asking for necessary accommodations that will help them to be more productive and successful in their professional and personal lives. The first step to normalizing mental health issues is to have genuine conversations with those who disclose their condition. To start, here are some common responses to avoid: 

I sometimes get anxious, too

On the surface, this may seem like an empathetic statement, but it can unintentionally trivialize their experience. Yes, we all experience a normal amount of stress and anxiety, but people with anxiety disorders experience it all the time. Feelings of overwhelming dread and panic seem to come from nowhere for no particular reason. Try to understand what that might be like and allow the person to describe how this affects them—without judgement or the need to compare your experiences to theirs.

You don’t seem like you have an anxiety disorder

People with anxiety disorders spend a lot of energy trying to “pass” so that no one can tell they are struggling.They may be great at public speaking or holding conversations. They may be outgoing and at ease in social gatherings. But the truth is they are often doing mental gymnastics to navigate situations that make them extremely uncomfortable, and are constantly combating feelings of self-doubt that leave them mentally and emotionally exhausted. Anxiety is very often an invisible disability. Try saying something like this instead. “It must be hard for you to make public speaking seem so natural as you do.”

You should try to think more positively, or try this treatment/medication

People with a diagnosed anxiety disorder have likely undergone many therapies and tried  different drug treatments over many years. To assume that it is as simple as changing one’s mindset or using a particular medication or treatment comes across as pedantic and unempathetic. It is between the person and their doctor(s) to determine the best course of treatment. Finding what works best is often a lifetime balancing act.. Try listening and offering to help in any way you can to alleviate some of this person’s struggles.

Ultimately, the best way to be an ally to a person struggling with a mental health disorder like anxiety is to be there for them—ask them how you can help make things easier, and communicate that you don’t judge them for something which is out of their control. The stigma around mental disabilities can be eroded with acceptance and support for vulnerable friends, coworkers and family members who are brave enough to talk about their mental health.

Abraham, M. (October 10, 2020). 12 do’s and don’ts of helping someone with anxiety. Retrieved from CalmClinic:

Boyes, A. (July 13, 2016). How to help someone with anxiety: practical tips for helping a friend with anxiety. Retrieved from Psychology Today: