The Influence of Anxiety Disorders on Work Performance

Team IIBP Anveshan, Employee Health, Employee wellbeing, Issue 37, Mental Health, Occupational Health, Volume 4

“Mental illness is a disease and like any other medical condition individuals need support, interventions and continued care to address their symptoms”
– Angeleena Francis.

According to a global prediction provided by Forbes Health in an article titled “Mental Health Statistics,” there are expected to be 374 million cases of anxiety disorders worldwide in 2023, a 25% increase from the previous year’s 298 million cases.

Anxiety disorders are one the most prominent and treatable disorders and often goes overlooked. Many people confuse fear with anxiety and use the words a little too casually. Fear is an alarm reaction that occurs in response to an immediate danger whereas Anxiety is excessive worrying, heart palpitations and involves a general feeling of apprehension about possible future danger.

Realistic, unreasonable fears or anxieties of incapacitating intensity are the primary and most conspicuous symptom of all anxiety disorders. However, they vary in strength, cause, and occasionally both. There are 11 anxiety disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM 5), which was created by the American Psychiatric Association to help clinical psychologists and psychiatrists diagnose mental illnesses effectively. These disorders include generalized anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders, specific phobias, panic disorders, selective mutism, and agoraphobia.

In a simple form generalized anxiety disorder is about having persistent anxiety about everything, especially things that are not in the individuals control, Social anxiety disorders are about having anxiety related to sharing or being in a social situation wherein they might have to interact with people. Specific phobias and Agoraphobia are both phobias about a specific situation or setting. Panic disorders are when a person experiences recurrent panic and selective mutism is condition that involves the persistent failure to speak in specific social situations and interferes with educational or social adjustment.
From research papers and articles we can confidently say that young adults are the most affected. This same age group is either in college or working. This affects the organizations they work in, economy and the world at large. Catching up with the expectations of your organization itself is hard but if you’re someone suffering from anxiety disorder, it becomes harder. The symptoms of anxiety can interfere with your ability to interact with others, to perceive and interpret information and to concentrate. Having an anxiety disorder with no proper help or diagnosis makes things worse.

Moreover, anxiety disorders often lead to decreased decision-making abilities. Individuals with anxiety disorders may struggle to make timely and effective choices due to the fear of making mistakes or the desire for perfection. This can result in delays, inefficiencies, and missed opportunities in the workplace. In addition, the excessive self-consciousness and fear of judgment prevalent in anxiety disorders can stifle creative thinking and limit the willingness to take risks. This can hinder problem-solving skills and restrict the contribution of individuals with anxiety to innovative initiatives within their work environment.
Anxiety disorders also pose challenges to interpersonal dynamics in the workplace. Symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, and social anxiety can make it difficult for individuals to establish and maintain positive relationships with colleagues and superiors. The cumulative effect of these symptoms can decrease energy levels, reduce resilience to stress, and increase the likelihood of burnout, all of which negatively impact work performance.

Asthma, chronic pain, hypertension, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and irritable bowel syndrome are just a few of the medical conditions that anxiety disorders are linked to (Roy-Byrne et al., 2008). Additionally, people with anxiety disorders are heavy users of medical services (e.g., Chavira et al., 2009). According to a study, workers with anxiety disorders incurred significantly greater medical expenses and lost productivity expenditures.

To address the influence of anxiety disorders on work performance, it is essential to break the stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. The prevailing stigma often leads to silence and a lack of support for individuals with anxiety disorders. By creating an open and supportive work environment, organizations can promote understanding, empathy, and acceptance. This can be achieved through education and awareness campaigns, training programs, and providing access to mental health resources.

Forbes Magazine. (2023, April 28). Mental health statistics. Forbes.
Elevation Behavioral Health. (2022, July 29). Anxiety affecting work performance. Elevation Behavioral Health.
Roy-Byrne, P. P., Davidson, K. W., Kessler, R. C., Asmundson, G. J., Goodwin, R. D., Kubzansky, L., … & Stein, M. B. (2008). Anxiety disorders and comorbid medical illness. General hospital psychiatry, 30(3), 208-225.
Chavira, DA, Stein, MB, Golinelli, D., Sherbourne, CD, Craske, MG, Sullivan, G., & Roy-Byrne, PP (2009). Predictors of clinical improvement in a randomized effectiveness trial for primary care patients with panic disorder. The Journal of nervous and mental disease , 197 (10), 715.
Simon G, Ormel J, VonKorff M, Barlow W. 1995. Health care costs associated with depressive and anxiety disorders in primary care. Am J Psychiatry 152:352–357.
Souetre E, Lozet H, Cimarosti I, Martin P, Chignon JM, Ades J, Tignol J, Darcourt G. 1994. Cost of anxiety disorders: Impact of comorbidity. J Psychosom Res 38 (Suppl. 1):151–160.

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