Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
February 10, 2024

‘Should I Tell My Boss about My ADHD or Anxiety Diagnosis?’ Pros and Cons to Consider

If you’re thinking about disclosing an ADHD or anxiety diagnosis to your workplace, you’re likely hoping for accommodations as a result. Most workplaces simply aren’t built for neurodivergent or anxious folks, and can instead pile stress and frustration onto your days. Workplace accommodations can make your work experience – and your whole life – smoother, easier, and more manageable.

However, disclosure can be risky. Unfortunately, there are some people at work who could respond poorly or potentially use your diagnosis against you. Many of my clients struggle with what to do in this situation: to disclose or not to disclose? It’s a tough decision that requires careful consideration. Furthermore, everyone’s answer will be different depending on their personality, their boss’s personality, their workplace environment, and other factors.

Let’s talk about what you can expect when asking for accommodations, and some pros and cons of disclosing your ADHD or anxiety diagnosis, to help you decide. 

Disclosing ADHD or anxiety diagnosis at work

What are Accommodations for My ADHD or Anxiety Diagnosis?

What can you expect when asking for accommodations for ADHD or anxiety? 

Workplace accommodations for both ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or other anxiety disorders vary depending on your workplace and their resources. 

Workplaces are required by law to provide “reasonable” accommodations for people with provable disabilities or diagnoses (including GAD and ADHD). However, “reasonable” is a subjective term. What’s reasonable or manageable for a profitable corporation may not be reasonable or manageable for a tiny business. Common accommodations may include the following:

  • Providing a quiet work environment or allowing you to move your office to a quieter area
  • Allowing noise-canceling headphones or a white noise machine
  • Flexible work hours
  • Working from home more frequently
  • Taking more frequent or longer breaks
  • Minimizing multi-tasking requirements
  • Reduced distractions
  • Purchasing things like standing desks, timers, or interactive calendars
  • Allowing for specific types of communication, such as written rather than verbal
  • One on one time with a boss or supervisor to go over specific tasks, break projects down into smaller chunks, provide written instructions, etc. 
  • Job coaching or mentorship

Pros and Cons of Disclosing Your ADHD/Anxiety Diagnosis at Work

Here are some pros and cons about disclosing your ADHD diagnosis or your anxiety diagnosis at work.

Pros of a diagnosis disclosure

  1. Transformative accommodations. If you have a supportive boss who cares about your personal well-being and helps you get the accommodations you need, that’s amazing. Receiving the right accommodations can be life-changing and completely transform your relationship to work. 
  2. Decreased anxiety. Getting the right support you need to do your job better can improve your overall mental health. Knowing it’s all above board and that you don’t have to mask behaviors or pretend to be fine when you’re struggling can drastically reduce anxiety.
  3. Nothing to hide. Some people feel dishonest or inauthentic if they feel like they have to hide their mental health diagnoses. While this is completely understandable, I also want to say there’s absolutely nothing wrong or bad about keeping things private if you want or need to. You don’t anybody any personal information about yourself.

The pros of disclosing can be incredibly freeing and helpful. If your boss and work environment are supportive and nurturing, disclosure may be an ideal option for you.

Should I tell my boss about my ADHD or anxiety diagnosis?

Cons of a diagnosis disclosure

  1. Lack of accommodations. Just because you tell your employer about your diagnosis doesn’t mean you’ll get the accommodations you want or need. Your workplace or boss may be unable or unwilling to go the extra mile to get you the things you need. Or you may get some of what you need, but it’s not enough. 
  2. Stigma. While both ADHD and GAD have garnered more attention and interest in recent years, the disorders are still stigmatized and misunderstood by many people. Your boss or workplace’s attitudes about ADHD or anxiety may change their perception of you and your abilities. 
  3. Potential discrimination. Unfortunately, it’s possible that your manager or other coworkers may use your diagnosis against you. Maybe you suddenly get pulled out of the running for the promotion you’ve been working toward, or your coworkers start gossiping about you behind your back. The Americans With Disabilities Act prevents workplace discrimination due to disability (which ADHD and GAD can legally be claimed as), but discrimination can be extremely subtle and difficult to prove. 
  4. Alienation. People don’t always know how to handle sensitive information. They may balk at your diagnosis and act strangely around you. In this way, you could find yourself alienated from colleagues you thought were your friends.
  5. Increase in anxiety. If you have accommodations that other people don’t have, like extra days of working at home, you might end up even more anxious about how other people perceive you as a result. Is everyone mad that you get to work from home and they don’t? Do they think you’re getting special treatment for no reason? People-pleasing thoughts and behaviors can arise after disclosing a diagnosis, and that’s important to be aware of and prepare for. 

Any of the above cons, if they come to pass, can be devastating. They can feel lonely, isolating, and shameful. Not to mention how frustrating it is to be honest and vulnerable with people only to have them somehow use it against you. If your boss or workplace environment are cutthroat or unsupportive, disclosing your diagnosis may not be a good idea.

ADHD Diagnosis: To Disclose or Not to Disclose

Ultimately, whether or not you should disclose your diagnosis to others at work depends entirely on a lot of factors, many of which are out of your control.

Before making a decision, I highly recommend taking the environment of your workplace and personalities of your colleagues into account: is it cutthroat or safe? Do people have each other’s backs or are they cruel and gossipy? Do you work for a huge corporation or a small business? Are the people there open-minded or narrow-minded? Even if you think you have the answers to all these questions, people’s reactions can surprise you.

If you’re worried about the repercussions of disclosing your diagnosis at work, I recommend doing what you can to get the accommodations without having to come out and tell anybody about your mental health.

For example, you can ask for flexible scheduling and hours without having to tell your boss it’s because of your ADHD insomnia or time blindness. Or you can request to work from home, citing higher productivity due to a less overwhelming environment. Most bosses are happy to help when they think you’ll be more productive as a result. If you can show them your requests will help you become a better and happier employee, they may just jump on board.

ADHD and Anxiety Support

If you want additional support, I offer online anxiety therapy and ADHD therapy for millennials. I use different therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to help you manage and overcome your biggest workplace and home life obstacles. 

I’m here to help you work through the process of getting a diagnosis, come up with accommodations to ask for, and debate the pros and cons of disclosing your diagnosis at work. Regardless of whether you ultimately decide to disclose, you’ll learn how to better advocate for yourself at work and come away from our sessions feeling empowered and resilient.

Reach out today and see if we’re a good fit. Let’s start building a better future together.

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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