Anxiety, like many mental health conditions, is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a disability. However, in the UK, the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010 can apply to mental health conditions. This means those with long-term mental health difficulties can access support in places of work and education. It’s important to reduce barriers to learning and work for those with anxiety.

In this blog, we’ll cover anxiety as a long-term condition and disability, before sharing the support that is available to students and employees for their mental health.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. This might be before specific events, like a job interview or presentation. It’s an important, necessary, and healthy emotion to have. However, for some, anxiety, worry, and fear can become persistent. 

That feeling is a common and defining characteristic of an anxiety disorder. It can start to have an effect on daily activities and begin to impact your work, education, and relationships. There are a few different types of anxiety disorders and sometimes, these may co-exist alongside other mental health conditions, like depression.

Examples of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobia Related Disorders

Common Symptoms

  • Feeling restless, nervous, or on-edge
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Trembling, shaking, and feeling breathless
  • Sleeping problems, such as being unable to fall or stay asleep
  • Feeling easily fatigued and weak
  • Difficulty with controlling feelings of worry or panic
  • Increased heart rate or heart palpitations
  • Getting headaches, stomachaches, and muscle aches

Is Anxiety a Disability?

Under the Equality Act 2010, mental health conditions are considered to be a disability using these criteria:

  • It has an effect on your daily life activities
  • Causes difficulty for you in such activities 
  • It has lasted for 12 months, will last for 12 months, or is likely to reoccur

Anxiety is considered to be a disability using this definition. For many, anxiety does impact daily life activities, such as concentrating, reading, writing, using public transport, or engaging with others. Those are just a few examples. It’s also common for anxiety to cause difficulty in those daily tasks. Yet many students and employees continue to persevere despite struggling with their anxiety. Finally, anxiety can be a long-term or recurring condition. 

If you’re receiving treatment, you are still included under the Equality Act 2010. This definition refers to mental health conditions before taking into consideration treatment like therapy, medication, or self-help. The act aims to protect those with a disability from discrimination in the workplace and education. 

This is incredibly important because living with an anxiety disorder can be very tough. Just like any other disability or mental health condition, those with anxiety deserve to have their needs met at work, university, and in wider society.

Social Model of Disability

Mental health conditions are often invisible illnesses that are met with a lot of shame and stigma. For this reason, it can be hard for those with anxiety to believe their mental health condition is a disability. However, one useful tool for rethinking disabilities and mental health conditions is the social model of disability

This model challenges the idea that people are disabled. Instead, it emphasises that it is actually society that disables people. People have impairments but in society, they are faced with physical and social barriers, like ideas and attitudes, that prevent them from accessing what they want.

People sometimes downplay their own mental health and try really hard to keep up with society. This is because of social barriers that make it hard to open up and ask for support. However, this can further impact your mental health and well-being. This model can open you up to seeking support and adjustments to help you do your best.

Adopting such a mindset can help all of us to reduce stigma and think more openly about making the world accessible. It is society’s physical and social barriers that fail to enable, and give independence to the many people living with physical or mental impairments. This model can be an empowering tool for you or someone who has a disability or mental health condition. 

It truly emphasises that everyone deserves the right support and tools to achieve their goals.

Students with Anxiety 

University causes anxiety for many students. It can be particularly difficult if you have an anxiety disorder or develop one during your education. From deadlines and academic worries to finances and friendships, there is a lot to worry about. If you have an anxiety disorder, this can be very tiring and difficult. You might struggle with your studies because of fatigue, a lack of concentration, and restlessness. 

However, you are entitled to support, both from your university and from Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Many universities have support for students with mental health conditions. You can check online for guidance on how this works at your university. Or, reach out to student services for some support. 

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA)

DSA is a government grant that covers study-related costs for students in higher education. This is a personalised support package for any student who has a long-term impairment or health condition, learning difficulty, or mental health condition. 

The grant covers four categories of costs, including specialist equipment and non-medical helpers. Equipment might include a laptop, printer, and a range of study-related software to help you with note-taking, reading, and assignments. This will depend on your DSA assessment but this is the kind of support you can get to make studying more manageable. For non-medical helpers, this could include study skills support, a mentor, a note-taker, or a study support assistant. That is someone who can be there as a professional who helps you with managing your studies. 

Finally, the grant also covers a general allowance for printing and a travel allowance for transport to and from the university. Students looking for placements, internships, or graduate jobs, can receive mental health support under the Access to Work scheme for their workplace or job interviews. We’ll discuss this further below.

Jamworks for Students

Jamworks is an assistive note-taking and recording tool that can be used for online or in-person lectures, meetings, and seminars. It is a DSA-approved tool that can help you streamline your note-taking, lecture recaps, and revision. Jamworks offers distraction-free note-taking features, word-for-word transcripts, and smart summaries of recorded content.

Employees with Anxiety 

It can be difficult to work while juggling an anxiety disorder. However, many still get on with their day and try their best, often at the expense of their well-being. Anxiety can make it hard to get up and get ready in the morning. It can also show up when managing deadlines, co-workers, meetings, and demanding workloads. This can further worsen someone’s mental health and lead to burnout. 

However, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for you under the Equality Act 2010. This could be a phased return to work, time off for counselling, and possibly remote or hybrid working arrangements. It’s important to remember you deserve the right support to be able to work in a way that enables you to do your best. 

Access to Work (A2W)

Employees who have a mental health condition or disability can apply for the Access to Work scheme. This is a government grant that covers the costs of additional practical support at work. Just like DSA, this will depend on your exact needs. However, A2W offer a free and confidential mental health support service that is tailored to your needs. It includes a personalised support plan for you to stay in or return to work. 

Additionally, the grant covers specialist equipment, adaptions, and support work services that make it easier for you to fulfil your work responsibilities. Trainees, interns, and the self-employed can also apply for the A2W scheme for support. 

Jamworks for Employees

Jamworks for Business is a meeting recording tool that creates automatic meeting highlights, lists of action items, summaries, and transcripts. These are just a few of Jamworks’ features for making meetings more accessible to everyone. It is an A2W-approved tool that can make meetings less overwhelming. You can focus on the meetings while Jamworks does all the important stuff for you.

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