10 thoughts on “How To Request Workplace Accommodations for Panic Disorder

  • July 27, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    In order to request workplace accommodations, you have to tell them that you have a problem. If you tell them that you have a problem during the hiring processing, especially in this economy where they have plenty of “normal” people to select from, they just aren’t going to hire you. That’s the way it goes.

  • July 28, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Unless you have a solid history working for the company, they are likely to find a reason to fire you though if you ask for accommodations. I think in this labor market, it’s just too risky to ask for official accommodations based on psychological disorders. Better to try to manage with therapy techniques or work with your employer without discussing the disorder. For example, you can say that you work better by being able to set your own breaks and see if they comply. Or if you have to go to therapy, you could say that you have “doctor’s Appts.” Of course that won’t fly every week but you could alternate those sessions with phone sessions during your lunch hour. (but if this is going to be a longtime situation, find a therapist who can see you outside of work hours).

    You should be open and honest with your therapist about this situation. They are likely to want to work with you, unlike an employer. For example, they may stay still 6pm or come into the office to see you on a weekend, if that’s the only time you can make it. Or worst comes to worst, they can refer you to another therapist who has keeps more flexible hours.

    Your employer also has wide latitude to say that that is too much of a hardship to do that accommodation.

    In short, its very risky to ask for accommodations based on panic disorder and it’s better to try to manage with therapy and meds or find a job that’s flexible.

    Also, if you are allowed to leave at any time or work from home, your panic disorder is likely to get WORSE because you are giving in to the panic by retreating. This is exactly what turns panic disorder into Agoraphobia. You don’t want to flee in a panic situation, because you are not learning that a panic attack is a harmless “false alarm.” If this is a huge problem, you should work with a therapist on exposure techniques and possibly medications and techniques that can help prevent panic attacks.

    (BTW, I am a former Panic Attack sufferer and am now studying to be a therapist)

    • July 28, 2011 at 9:21 am

      All very good points, LS, but keep in mind that you can ultimately be fired as a result of not asking for accommodations as well. Let’s say your panic attacks cause abdominal distress. Every time you panic at work, you have no choice but to run directly into the bathroom.

      Let’s put this scenario into the world of retail, where randomly running away from the cash register is frowned upon. You run from the register into the bathroom with little to no warning. Eventually, your co-workers and boss are going to notice this — and, perhaps, think you’re merely being lazy, inattentive, or intentionally violating the rules. All very negative things.

      In cases like this, what’s worse? Risking getting fired for what management wrongly assumes to be lack of respect for company rules, or taking the chance in requesting an accommodation for flexible breaks?

  • July 28, 2011 at 4:22 am

    I think it is better to go for a therapy if you have panic attack. It will be hard for an employer to give an accommodations in this competitive times unless the person have a really indispensable talent.

  • July 28, 2011 at 9:27 am

    the problem is that many people with true panic attacks and horrible social anxiety would be horrified to have to go through all this just to get a disability lable.

  • July 28, 2011 at 9:32 am

    and as one poster put it, not many employers are going to go out of their way to accomodate your anxiety. This is why many people with the disorder have problems finding work and keeping work. Plus most jobs want you to be outgoing and people with anxiety are far from that. If there were more jobs in general for introverts for example then those with anxiety could find a safe place to realistically work.

  • July 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    That is why the “floating through the attack” works so well. There were so many times during Paxil withdrawal that my anxiety made me want to go home, but my friend from http://www.paxilprogress.org told me that going home and running from the attack was the worst thing to do, because it just reinforces the belief that the anxiety is tied to someplace. He was right.

  • July 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Summer- If even with cognitive behavioral therapy and appropriate meds you are still having panic attacks that cause you to run from the register on a regular basis, you better find another line of work, because retail is not for you.

    An employer is likely to say that flexible schedules are not reasonable because there are times when you need to be at the register, like if people are waiting in line or the store is about to close.
    Also running away is really the worst thing you could do for panic. It just reinforces the “fight or flight response.” If you stick it out, it will almost certainly go away. I like to use the exercise where you count your breaths in your head to distract yourself. Another technique is to focus on something concrete in the environment.

    • March 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Definitely– it is not true that panic “forces” you or leaves you “no choice.” I thought that it did for years. I have now started to realize that I am making my own decisions. A panic attack makes me WANT to leave the room. It doesn’t MAKE me leave the room. My feet do that. 🙂

  • August 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

    Great post, this points will really benefit me thank you. I find my major problem is the difficulty to cope with loud noises or constant chatter because it either makes me paranoid that colleagues are taking about me or it stops me from concentrating then I worry that work won’t be completed on time. Quiet, controlled environments benefit me greatly. Unfortunately flexible breaks is difficult to fit in due to peak times where there is a lot of customer presence or times when the business just needs you to work. What I find strange and annoying is that smokers can take a quick 5 minute break for a cigarette but those who have panic disorders or sometimes need that short break are not allowed to. It is rather unfair.



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