How to Get Time Off Work for Stress and Anxiety - NeuroSpa (2023)

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How to Get Time Off Work for Stress and Anxiety

  • June 20, 2021
  • by W. Nate Upshaw, MD

How to Get Time Off Work for Stress and Anxiety - NeuroSpa (1)

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W. Nate Upshaw, MD

Dr. William Nathan Upshaw is the Medical Director of NeuroSpa TMS®. Since receiving training from the inventor of TMS Therapy nearly a decade ago, Dr. Upshaw has been a pioneer, champion and outspoken advocate of TMS Therapy. Dr. Upshaw’s holistic experience in the field has transformed him into Florida’s leading advocate for widespread accessibility to TMS Therapy.

About Dr. Upshaw

In our current work culture, it’s difficult, frowned upon, or even not allowed, to call off work for being sick. And, when we think “sick”, we tend to initially think of physical illness such as a cold, flu, or injury. But when it comes to mental health, depending upon your employer and circumstances, taking off work may not even seem like an option. Fortunately, there has been progress in having mental health conversations in the workplace, and policies are adapting to reflect that. Taking time off of work due to depression and anxiety may feel difficult, but is very possible and necessary.

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Feeling Too Depressed To Go To Work?

We know that anxiety, stress, and depression can cause just as much distress as physical ailments. And, quite often, our workplace can be a major contributing factor to stress and anxiety. Over the last year, if you transitioned to working from home, survived a global pandemic, and navigated financial crises, you probably experienced stress! Stress usually is most often caused by an external trigger, such as a work deadline, large events, discrimination, ailing health of a loved one, etc. While stress may be alleviated when the stressor is over, it can still bring about mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. It can also lead to anxiety or other mood problems if persistent.

Anxiety is more often experienced as a persistent and excessive worry, despite relief of the stressor. Anxiety can also manifest in multiple ways, including nervousness, restlessness, tension, having a sense of impending doom, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, and gastrointestinal problems. It’s clear that if we experience even a few of these symptoms, it can absolutely have an impact on our work and wellness as a whole. So, if you’re feeling too depressed to go to work or too anxious to go to work, it is well within reason to take the day off.

Getting Signed Off Work For Depression

In case you’re wondering how to call in sick for depression or anxiety, it may first be helpful to review your employer’s policies around sick leave, and to determine if you are eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA provides some employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and protects your job status and health benefits, per year. According to the FMLA, employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for the following events: the birth and care of a newborn child of an employee, for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. This last requirement is where you may be eligible for FMLA and how you can get time off work for stress and anxiety.

Anxiety, stress, or depression leave from work may require multiple days off, which is where FMLA may come in handy. This may be enough time to seek more intensive treatment if needed or time to relax and seek support. However, if you are thinking “can I get a sick note for anxiety”, the answer is yes. First, be familiar with your company or employer’s policy for sick days. Every workplace is different. You may only need to tell your employer that you can’t make it in today, or may be required to provide a letter or note from a medical or mental health professional. It can be difficult to share about anxiety, stress, and depression, but you may or may not need a note in order to take the day off. Ideally, you would be able to go into as much or as little detail as you want about how you are feeling and your reasoning for having the day off. Most likely, you may be asked to name how your mental health concerns are impacting your work.

If you regularly see a therapist or a doctor, you can consult with them regarding taking time off. It is possible your doctor or therapist will give you a sick note for depression, stress, or anxiety. Once again, some employers may require this. However, it is important to note that your doctor cannot discuss your health with your employer without your written and documented consent. Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or better known as HIPAA, your health care providers are not allowed to share information with your employer, or anyone else for that matter, without your consent. If you want your providers to discuss your situation with an employer, you will be asked to sign a release of information (ROI) to have this exchange of information. You may be asked by your employer to voluntarily provide documentation from a therapist or doctor to support a sick day due to anxiety or stress.

(Video) An alternative for treating depression and anxiety at TMS Neurospa

Can You Work With Severe Depression

Coping with anxiety, stress, or depression and going to work can feel like an impossible task. While the world is starting to see how our mental health is just as important as our physical health, we still need to be our own biggest advocate. Considering the workplace may be some of the biggest sources of stress and anxiety, it is even more important to consider calling out of work for depression, anxiety, or stress to support our mental health in the long run. While not everyone has the ability to take time off, explore with your employer, therapist, or healthcare provider (if that feels safe to do so) other ways that you can address your mental health in order to feel more present and productive at work.

Treating Depression Related Anxiety With No Side Effects

If you’ve just been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and are concerned about the many side effects of medications, consider treatment via Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This is an FDA cleared non-invasive treatment that uses targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate areas of the brain that affect mood, which helps you get back to your best life quickly and with no recorded systemic side effects. Among the many treatment options out there, TMS therapy is an excellent solution that is covered by most major insurance companies. The best part is there are no recorded systemic side effects from TMS therapy, making it an excellent solution for those who fear the side effects of medications.

This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See fulldisclaimer.

Works Cited

American Psychological Association. (2020, September 21). What’s the difference between stress and anxiety? Retrieved June 22, 2021, from

Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, November 2). Employers and Health Information in the Workplace. Retrieved June 22, 2021, from

U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) | U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved June 22, 2021, from

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  • February 16, 2023

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Can you get time off from work for stress and anxiety? ›

Yes, you can use FMLA leave for anxiety issues. However, you will need to speak with your doctor about taking the leave—the law doesn't protect you if you simply call out for anxiety issues.

Can you take time off work for mental stress? ›


An eligible employee may take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition, or to care for a spouse, child, or parent because of a serious health condition. A serious health condition can include a mental health condition.

Can I get FMLA for anxiety and depression? ›

Yes. Assuming that you work for a covered employer and are eligible for FMLA leave, you may take leave for treatment visits and therapy sessions for the condition.

Can you take FMLA for anxiety? ›

The FMLA requires employers to maintain their employees' medical benefits while they take FMLA leaves of absence. If you take a leave of absence for anxiety disorder, your employer must maintain your coverage. However, you will be required to continue paying your share of the costs of your benefits.

How do I ask my doctor for stress leave? ›

Below are some key points to remember when talking to your doctor about stress leave:
  1. Be open about your symptoms.
  2. Be upfront about your feelings. Don't leave out any details.
  3. Listen to your doctor's advice.
  4. If needed, book follow-up appointments.
  5. Explain your situation clearly and what you feel triggers your predicament.
Apr 13, 2022

What happens if you can't work due to anxiety? ›

Your Anxiety Disorder Disability Case

If you are disabled because of an anxiety disorder that prevents you from working, you may very well be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits.

How do you tell your boss you're struggling with anxiety? ›

Budget more time than you think you'll need so that the conversation isn't cut short. Be clear about the impact your mental health challenges are having at work. If the cause is work-related, share that also. As much as possible, come with suggestions for how your manager or HR can help you.

How do I tell my job I need time off for mental health? ›

How to Request a Mental Health Day
  1. Plan What You're Going To Say. It seems like an obvious tip, but in the moment, if you're nervous about what you're asking for, any preparation you've done will come in clutch. ...
  2. Keep It Simple. ...
  3. Ask in Advance. ...
  4. Don't Explain Yourself.
Sep 24, 2022

Can a doctor refuse to give you a sick note for anxiety? ›

Sick notes are discretionary. A doctor can refuse to give you a sick note if they feel you are fit to work. It helps to document when your symptoms started, what symptoms you have had, and how severe they have been to give the doctor a clear and accurate picture of your health condition.

What to say to doctor to get FMLA for anxiety? ›

In order to qualify for FMLA for the purpose of care for your physical or mental health, you must show that you have a “serious health condition.” Often, this might include a condition which requires hospitalization or in-patient care for at least one night, treatments which require ongoing care and follow-up ...

Can you be fired for missing work due to mental illness? ›

After an ADA amendment passed in 2009, it is now illegal for an employer to fire an employee if: They have mental or physical impairments that substantially limit at least one major life activity. They have a history of a disability.

What happens if I can't work due to mental illness? ›

If you are unable to work due to a mental illness, you should consider applying for Social Security Disability Benefits. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at your case individually to determine if your condition is severe enough to qualify for benefits.

Is anxiety a mental health disability? ›

Yes, anxiety is considered a disability. Anxiety disorders such as panic disorders, OCD, PTSD, and phobias are regarded as disabilities. People with anxiety as a disability can qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

Should I leave work if I have anxiety? ›

Take a day off. On days where your anxiety feels overwhelming, call out of work. Anxiety is a medical condition, and therefore you can — and should — use your sick days to treat it. Take care of yourself and mental well-being.

How much does FMLA pay? ›

You may receive up to 90 percent of your average weekly wage, depending on your income. A calculator to estimate your benefit payment is available at

Is stress covered under FMLA? ›

In California, if your workplace stress is preventing you from doing your job then you may be eligible for stress leave. This leave may be available under the: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), or. California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

How do I get a doctors note for stress and anxiety? ›

Contact your GP as soon as you know you'll need a fit note, and get the first appointment you can. Be honest and forward when answering their questions, so they can build a truthful picture of your issues. If your doctor decides your problems affect your fitness for work, they can issue a fit note.

Can the doctor give you anything for stress? ›

There is no specific medication for stress. But there are medications that can help reduce or manage some of the signs and symptoms of stress. For example, your doctor might offer to prescribe: Sleeping pills or minor tranquillisers, if you're having trouble sleeping.

Can I get short term disability for anxiety? ›

Short-term disability generally covers behavioral health issues, which can include anxiety, depression and stress.

Can my doctor put me on disability for depression and anxiety? ›

Social Security disability benefits for anxiety and depression. You may qualify for SSDI disability benefits for depression or anxiety disorders. However, you must show that your symptoms interfere with your ability to work. You must also show that you can't work due to anxiety and depression.

How much money do you get for anxiety disability? ›

Disability benefits for mental health condition also varies depending on if the person on disability receives SSI or SSDI benefits. The average SSI payment for adults in 2021 is $586 per month and the average SSDI payment for adults in 2021 is $1,277.

What are the signs of a mental breakdown? ›

The most common signs someone is having a mental breakdown are:
  • Hopelessness.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Sense of worthlessness.
  • Unable to sleep.
  • Lacking appetite.
  • Inability to focus.
  • Severe disappointment with their life.
Feb 11, 2022

How do you accommodate an employee with anxiety? ›

Reasonable accommodations for anxiety can include remote work, a support animal, a rest area, a modified break schedule, a flexible schedule, and shifts in schedule.

How do I get over severe anxiety at work? ›

The first step in managing work anxiety is building a personal wellness plan. If you're getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and engaging in social activities outside of work, then your odds for decreasing workplace anxiety are much greater.

How do you tell your boss you're struggling mentally and need time off? ›

Talking about your mental health doesn't need to be scary or over-complicated, you can start the conversation by simply saying, “I need to get something off my chest” or “I need to talk, do you have time to listen?” Just remember to tell your boss only what is necessary.

Should I tell my boss I'm struggling mentally? ›

Rights and responsibilities. Remember, you're not legally required to tell your employer about your mental health condition, unless there's a risk to yourself or others.

Should I talk to HR about mental health? ›

As with all things, you only need to disclose what you feel comfortable talking about. Addressing mental health with your employer can have positive outcomes and can enable them to support you. In the long run, it can improve how you feel about work and empower you to seek help when needed.

How do I get medical leave for anxiety? ›

Talk with your employer as soon as you know you need to take time off. Many employers require 30 days' advance notice when possible. If you need to take leave more urgently, you'll still want to provide as much notice as you can. Your HR department can also offer more guidance or information on other possible options.

What does a doctor do when you tell them you have anxiety? ›

Your doctor will probably complete a physical examination and is likely to take blood samples. He or she may also ask you to go for further tests, depending upon his or her initial assessment. This is to rule out any physical causes of your anxiety, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, or heart disease.

Can the doctor give me anything for anxiety? ›

Your GP can prescribe a variety of different types of medication to treat GAD. Some medication is designed to be taken on a short-term basis, while others are prescribed for longer periods. Depending on your symptoms, you may need medication to treat your physical symptoms, as well as your psychological ones.

Is it hard to get FMLA for depression? ›

Can you Take FMLA for Depression? The FMLA applies to depression as long as you are an eligible employee, and you can provide evidence that the care you're receiving requires a leave of absence. Many mental health treatments may fall under this umbrella.

Is depression covered under ADA? ›

Is Depression Covered by the ADA? Depression, along with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions, is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has been in place since 1992 and is meant to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against by employers.

Can a psychologist write you out of work? ›

It is possible your doctor or therapist will give you a sick note for depression, stress, or anxiety. Once again, some employers may require this. However, it is important to note that your doctor cannot discuss your health with your employer without your written and documented consent.

Is anxiety on the ADA disability list? ›

Under the ADA, the term "disability" means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual. Moreover, the ADA's definition of a mental impairment includes any emotional or mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders.

What are my rights as an employee with mental illness? ›

Poor mental health can be considered a disability even if they do not have symptoms all the time. If an employee is disabled, employers: must not discriminate against them because of their disability. must make reasonable adjustments.

What is the most approved disability? ›

What Is the Most Approved Disability? Arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities make up the most commonly approved conditions for social security disability benefits. This is because arthritis is so common. In the United States, over 58 million people suffer from arthritis.

How can I prove my mental health disability? ›

To prove your mental disability, you will need to have medical documentations, records and notes from any physicians you are seeing to show that your mental disability makes it impossible for you to work full time. The more medical evidence you have, the easier it is to prove your mental disability.

Can you be fired while on stress leave? ›

Can I be fired while on stress leave? Stress leaves are protected by law. Employers do not have the right to fire you while you are on stress leave.

What is a proof of disability letter from doctor? ›

A doctor disability letter is a statement from your primary care doctor that can be used as a source of medical evidence that can help provide support for your disability benefits application.

What do you say to a psychiatrist to get disability? ›

The best thing to tell a psychiatrist to get disability is the truth about what you are going through. Don't exaggerate, try to impress or worry about what a mental health professional is thinking about you.

What are ADA accommodations for anxiety? ›

But an anxiety disorder that puts significant limits on your daily activities is a disability under the ADA. Assuming your anxiety disorder qualifies as a disability, you are entitled to a reasonable accommodation: changes to your job or your workplace to enable you to perform the essential functions of your position.

Is it hard to get FMLA for anxiety? ›

To qualify for the stress leave, you must be suffering from a serious medical condition. Not all stress causes an FMLA-eligible condition. But, if your doctor agrees that you are suffering from a severe condition and that you are unable to work during this time period, you will be eligible for protected leave.

How long can you get FMLA for anxiety? ›

An eligible employee may take up to 12 workweeks of leave for their own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their essential job duties. Example: Karen is occasionally unable to work due to severe anxiety.

How long can you be off work with stress and anxiety? ›

If an employee is signed off work with stress for a period of more than seven consecutive days, including non-working days such as weekends, they will need to provide their employer with proof of work-related stress from a medical professional. This means obtaining a fit note from their GP.

What is the longest you can take FMLA? ›

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

How do you tell your boss you're taking FMLA? ›

To take FMLA leave, you must provide your employer with appropriate notice.
  1. If you know in advance that you will need FMLA leave, you must give your employer at least 30 days advance notice. ...
  2. If you know you need leave less than 30 days in advance, you must give your employer notice as soon as you can.

What happens when my 12 weeks of FMLA is exhausted? ›

When employees exhaust twelve weeks of FMLA leave and still cannot return to work due to their own medical impairment, the employer may have an obligation under the ADA to grant additional unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation, in some situations.

Is it OK to take time off work for your mental health? ›

An employee is allowed to take sick days for their mental health, at any given time. If their leave is more than seven days, they must provide a Statement of Fitness. (This is also known as a sick note, fit note, or doctor's note).

Can you take time off work due to mental health? ›

Your employer can refer you to occupational health if you have a physical or mental health problem that is affecting your work or causing you to take time off sick, particularly if this is more than two or three weeks at once.

Is it OK to take a break from work for mental health? ›

Taking time off can improve long-term job performance and avoid short-term burnout. Research shows that people who take sabbaticals not only benefit from reduced stress during their time off, but also experience less stress after returning to work.

Am I allowed to take a mental health day off from work? ›

Employees may take mental health days off from work for reasons other than physical illnesses. A mental health leave refers to taking time off to relieve anxiety, fatigue, or emotional distress. Taking time off for mental health allows employees to relax, recharge, and return to work with more confidence and energy.

Can you get fired for calling out for a mental health day? ›

Laura Handrick from Choosing Therapy explains, “If your employer has 50 or more employees or you're under federal contract, you are protected by federal labor and anti-discrimination laws that prevent your employer from penalizing you for taking time off for a mental health.” Depending on your workplace, asking for a ...

How do you know if you're having a nervous breakdown? ›

feel isolated — disinterested in the company of family and friends, or withdrawing from usual daily activities. feel overwhelmed — unable to concentrate or make decisions. be moody — feeling low or depression; feeling burnt out; emotional outbursts of uncontrollable anger, fear, helplessness or crying.

Is having anxiety a disability? ›

Yes, anxiety is considered a disability. Anxiety disorders such as panic disorders, OCD, PTSD, and phobias are regarded as disabilities. People with anxiety as a disability can qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

What is a nervous breakdown? ›

The term "nervous breakdown" is sometimes used by people to describe a stressful situation in which they're temporarily unable to function normally in day-to-day life. It's commonly understood to occur when life's demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming.

What is a mental health day off work? ›

A mental health day is a day you take off from work or school, and minimize any commitments or responsibilities. You can use this time to focus on relieving stress, relaxing, having fun, and preventing burnout.

What does burnout feel like? ›

Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don't see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you're drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up.


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