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Dealing With Anxiety Disorders in the Workplace: Importance of Early Intervention When Anxiety Leads to Absence From Work

Nash-Wright, Jennifer PsyD, LP

doi: 10.1097/NCM.0b013e3181f50919
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Purpose: A report from the Partnership on Workplace Mental Health, a program of the American Psychiatric Foundation, supports the widely held view that intervening early in a psychiatric disability absence will result in earlier return to work and reduce the likelihood of permanent disability. Studies unfortunately reveal that patients with psychiatric illness do not receive a level of care consistent with evidence-based best practice. This article highlights the importance of early interventions that utilize best practices for anxiety disorders that impair an employee's occupational functioning.

Primary practice setting: Behavioral Health Consulting Firm.

Findings/conclusions: Studies on occupational disability conclude that collaborative communication between clinicians, disability case managers, and the employer is important to facilitate a successful and timely return to work for employees with temporary psychiatric disability. Avoidance of preexisting workplace conflicts can undermine return to work. Undertreatment and ineffective treatment are common causes of delayed recovery from acute anxiety conditions. In addition, lack of urgency among clinicians regarding the crisis nature of absence from work due to psychiatric illness can contribute to lengthy and unnecessary absence from work.

Implications for case management practice: A basic understanding of the acute aspects of anxiety disorders can assist disability case managers working in collaboration with treating clinicians and employees in a successful and timely return to work when an anxiety condition leads to absence from work.

Jennifer Nash-Wright, PsyD, LP, is a clinical psychologist at Behavioral Medical Interventions, where she performs disability case reviews, on-site consultation, psychiatric case management, and workplace conflict intervention. She also maintains a private practice in Minneapolis, providing assessment and psychotherapy for adults. She can be reached at JenniferN@BehavioralMedical.com.

Address correspondence to Jennifer Nash-Wright, PsyD, LP, Behavioral Medical Interventions, 7211 Ohms Lane, Edina, MN 55349 (jennifern@behavioralmedical.com).

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