While many people are stressed at their jobs, working with an anxiety disorder adds a whole different level of worry. For people who experience anxiety daily, it doesn’t matter if things are going well, if work is “slow” or even if you’re good at your job — anxiety can still find a way to creep in.
To find out some things people don’t realize you’re doing at work because of your anxiety, we asked our mental health community to share one way anxiety affects them at work.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “I take jobs below my skill level. I hadn’t even noticed it until someone pointed it out. My anxiety prevents me from willingly challenging myself and pursuing a future in a field that better suits my talents and skills.” — Jenna G.
2. “I do my best to only correspond by email. The phone ringing causes major anxiety even if it’s a fellow co-worker. I typically let it go to voicemail and respond to them by email.” — Lisa C.
3. “Some days I have to call off… because I can’t leave the house since my anxiety is so bad. Then going into work the next day is the biggest struggle because I feel like my boss knows and wants to fire me.” — Jessica G.
4. “I avoid making phone calls — there are days when I would rather do anything else in the world but make phone calls. My anxiety goes mad with what if they say/ask/do and I don’t know the answer!” — Charlotte O.
5. “I put earbuds in even if I’m not listening to anything to block out everyone else’s conversations. Sometimes I absorb their stress and anxiety with their task even if it does not apply to my job at all.” — Shannon K.
6. “I make sure I have everything done before my boss can ask me to do it so I don’t feel like I look like a lazy, horrible employee. Triple checking locks, cash box, alarms, my float count, the list of opening and closing duties to make sure I did everything right. Hiding behind the counter so customers don’t see me shake when they come in. Taking pictures of the way product was stored so I can make sure nothing was stolen. So much rechecking and planning ahead goes into my work day to make sure I don’t mess up.” — Erin W.
7. “I don’t eat in the break room with everyone else, and although it may seem like ‘I think I’m too good’ to sit with everyone else, it’s really because my anxiety is so bad in a crowd of people I break out in a rash on my face and neck.” — Catherine D.
8. “Anxiety at work often comes out as misplaced anger. I don’t do well when caught off guard or having one thing told to me and another to happen. When someone comes to my desk to show me something that’s wrong, my immediate reaction is intense anger and muttering of curse words. I know it’s not an appropriate reaction but my head is screaming, ‘OMG may day mayday mayday!’” — Megan R.
9. “I talk and laugh too much and too loudly. I fidget all the time, or tap on the table, or click my pen or bounce my leg. Sometimes I get panic attacks and just run out of the office to get outside because the few times people have noticed it it scared the heck out of them. I take a lot of smoke breaks, so much that I don’t take a lunch break, too. I hate it if I’m not at work at least 20 minutes early because I need that time to mentally prepare myself for what I need to do that day.” — Mikal D.
10. “If my anxiety is bad, I scratch or pick my skin open. Especially in spring or summer I will scratch my ankles right open, so I often wear long skirts so no one can see.” — Helena B.
11. “I constantly asking people if I’m correct even when I know the answer, or apologize just to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes and that they don’t judge me or change their perception of me.” — Noor Z.
12. “I used to rewrite and retype things constantly. Directions for the different equipment, notes for co-workers, etc. I’d constantly obsess and cross out, reword, rewrite until it was perfect and clear.” — Anna V.
13. “Doing anything as small as blowing my nose that calls attention to myself, is maddening. Small talk is out of the question. I’ll constantly be questioning what I’m going to say before I say it, and then it’s no longer relevant to the conversation. If I do work up the courage to say something, I’ll question what I said the rest of the day, wondering how silly I sounded.” — Sasha H.
14. “I try to do everything, even if it’s not my job. I have a wonderful boss and amazing co-workers but am always paranoid that something will slip, and it will somehow come back on me even if it wasn’t my job to begin with. More often than not, I try to do as much as possible and never look like I’m slowing down while working. My boss is the best one you could ask for, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I’m constantly worried I’ll get fired for something arbitrary. He would never fire someone without a very good reason (stealing or something of the like), but that fear never fades.” — Stormi V.
15. “I’m overly friendly. Like I talk to everyone as if they’re family. People think this is ‘how I do my job’ when actually it’s the only way I get through a second without losing myself. I feel so sick all the time too, so I always rub my tummy (I’m a big girl so people think that’s just what I do).” — Toni C.
16. “My ability to focus is at its lowest. When other people talk to me, I zone out completely. I have to rehearse everything I’m going to say to respond with. It’s just all too much pressure, so I try to avoid conversations as much as I possibly can.” — Defensa C.
17. “I put on a plastic smile and say yes just so they go away. A dire combination. I’m now self-employed — it’s the only way I found to stop the cycle.” — Nellie F.
18. “I constantly add to my to-do list, even when they’re unnecessary tasks. Then, I stress about what people will say when it isn’t all complete before I leave work.” — Elizabeth T.
19. “If I mess up something at work I will obsess over it the entire day. It distracts me from doing as good of a job as I know I can.” — Ariel S.
20. “I constantly ask whether things are OK or seek reassurance that I’m doing things right. I don’t need praise, I just need acknowledgement that I’m not messing things up.” — Daisy A.
21. “I sometimes tap quite loudly on the table during my lunch hour when sitting with company. I normally don’t realize until it’s pointed out and I’m told to stop.” — Isabelle V.
22. “I constantly play with my necklace or earrings and also bite my lip.” — Samantha S.
23. “When I ‘take a walk’ outside, it’s not for the exercise. It’s so I can get out of the building, attempt to breathe and calm myself down.” — Shauna D.