What To Say To Doctor To Get Signed Off Work With Stress? (A Guide) - PsychReel (2023)

In this brief guide, we will discuss what to say to a doctor to get signed off work with stress.

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What to Say to a Doctor to Get Signed Off Work With Stress?

Not knowing what to say to a doctor to get signed off work due to stress may lead to more stress, as has been seen in many people with stress and anxiety, and generally describing the symptoms of stress you are experiencing to the doctor may be enough to get you signed off work.

Stress may be caused by your workplace or other reasons, and according to the Center for Disease Control, “Mental health disorders are among the most burdensome health concerns in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older (18.3% or 44.7 million people) reported any mental illness in 2016.2 In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.”

Work stress can also be triggered owing to unhealthy work relationships and unnecessary leg-pulling by colleagues. You know when you are being squeezed out at work and how stressful such situations can get in real life.

To say something to a doctor to get signed off work with stress you need to first recognize time off and that you need to figure out some way to get off work, which you may understand better below.

How do you know you need to get signed off work with stress?

While quitting your job owing to excessive work stress might seem tempting, you know you need to get signed off work with stress when you start feeling that your productivity is starting to get affected by the stress and you start feeling like you don’t want to go to work anymore.

In trying to ascertain when you need to get signed off work with stress, you may also benefit from knowing the signs and symptoms of stress, which according to WebMD are:


  • “Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others”


  • “Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth”


  • “Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side”


  • “Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
  • Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail-biting, fidgeting, and pacing”

In addition, WebMD also talks about the consequences of stress, which is likely to happen if you decide to power through it and don’t get signed off work when you need to, and these consequences may look something like this:

  • “Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon”
What To Say To Doctor To Get Signed Off Work With Stress? (A Guide) - PsychReel (1)

What causes stress at work?

There are many things that may cause stress at work, including but not limited to worry about productivity, putting in long hours, tension related to not being able to deliver and suffering the consequences, and a need to function at your absolute best in order to meet the bare minimum possible to sustain a decent lifestyle.

In addition to the regular things that one needs to worry about in terms of workplace-related stress, we are now dealing with one of the worst times in the economic and anthropological sense due to the ongoing lockdown, and many people have lost jobs or are working in strenuous and sometimes difficult conditions, which may lead to even more stress.

The direness of the situation is not lost on the government and policymakers, though, thankfully, and branches of the Department of Labor in the US are working towards ensuring the employees’ mental health, which may be seen reflected in a recent blog post by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), titled, “Coronavirus (COVID-19), Stress, and Mental Health Conditions,” where the writer explores the unknown effects of the ongoing lockdown and how it is going to affect those with caregiving duties as well as those with pre-existing mental health issues or stress.

Apart from the ongoing lockdown situation, there are other problems even in the best of times that may contribute to the stress associated with the workplace that may compel people to get signed off work, some of which are highlighted by the WHO:

  • “Inadequate health and safety policies;
  • Poor communication and management practices;
  • Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
  • Low levels of support for employees;
  • Inflexible working hours; and
  • Unclear tasks or organizational objectives.”

The WHO also says that “Risks may also be related to job content, such as unsuitable tasks for the person’s competencies or a high and unrelenting workload. Some jobs may carry a higher personal risk than others (e.g. first responders and humanitarian workers)”.

They report that people who are at such high risk for stress may even resort to psychoactive drugs or more forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms which may make the problem much worse.

Furthermore, says WHO, “Bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”) are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present risks to the health of workers”, which may also become a huge reason to want to get signed off work.

What To Say To Doctor To Get Signed Off Work With Stress? (A Guide) - PsychReel (2)

What is Stress Leave and How can you Request it?

After understanding the problems stress poses one needs to know what stress leave is and how one may request it, which is quite simple, stress leave is simply a sabbatical or time off due to mental health issues, and one may request it by providing an adequate note from a doctor.

Stress leave is defined as an extended period of time for which an employee may get signed off work with stress-related illnesses or other kinds of injuries or traumas, and there are actually laws regarding stress like in the US, the FMLA or “Family Medical Leave Act,” according to which is a “guarantee certain employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss.”

Here are the steps you need to take to go about taking a stress leave:

  • Consult your doctor, tell them honestly that you are feeling negative and stressed out, and ask them if getting signed off work with stress will help.
  • Get the doctor’s note, and discuss the situation with your employer, and see if there is some way where your overall workload may be reduced or altered in some way
  • To take time off, write a letter for a leave of absence due to stress, attach your doctor’s note, and submit it.
  • Once you start your leave, make sure you seek the help you need so that you are able to get back to work eventually and don’t run the risk of burnout.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What can employers do to reduce the employees’ stress?

It is not just up to employees to look out for themselves, employers may also take some steps to reduce the number of people who need to get signed off work with stress, as highlighted by the CDC:

  • Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
  • Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
  • Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
  • Distribute materials, such as brochures, flyers, and videos, to all employees about the signs
  • and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.

What will the doctor ask me when I need to get signed off work with stress?

To get you signed off work with stress the doctor may ask you a series of questions that are designed to understand what you are experiencing and if leaving work for a while will benefit you, because in some cases, being stripped of the routine of a job can make one feel untethered and drifting and make matters worse.

Here are some questions that a doctor may ask you before he signs off on you getting off work with stress:

  • Do you experience dread at the thought of work?
  • Do you find yourself experiencing more negative physical symptoms like stomach issues at work?
  • Do you find yourself constantly thinking about work when you are at home or in your leisure time?
  • Do you feel that your productivity has gone down?
  • How much time do you spend at work?
  • What line of work are you in?
  • Do you face any bullying, harassment or other adverse situations at work?
  • Do you work with a lot of deadlines?
  • Do you have any underlying major physical issues or lifestyle disorders like diabetes or hypertension?

There may be more questions depending on the other relevant points of your situation but these are generally the basic questions that the doctor may ask.


In this brief guide, we discussed what to say to a doctor to get signed off work with stress. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What to Say to a Doctor to Get Signed Off Work With Stress?

Will the doctor sign me off work with stress?

Yes, your doctor may sign you off work with stress if you are suffering from a significant level of stress, and they deem it necessary to take some time off work to deal with your stress.

While your doctor may sign you off work, however, the employer is not required to keep your job available for an indefinite period.

What do I tell my doctor to get stress leave?

Here is what you can tell your doctor to get stress leave:

Be honest and forthcoming about your symptoms.
Try to talk about your feelings openly and don’t leave things out because you are embarrassed or ashamed in any way.
Listen to the doctor’s advice about coping with the problem.
Go for follow-up appointments and seek the help you need.
Talk about your situation and especially the things that trigger your stress.

How long can I be signed off work with stress?

To know how long you can be signed off work with stress you should first check with your employer and the rules in your company, but in most cases after signing off work with stress for seven consecutive days, one may need to provide their employer with proof of work-related stress.

This note can be obtained easily by telling your doctor what you are going through and having them write you an official document with their signature that you can submit at work.

Can I get a sick note for anxiety?

Yes, you can get a sick note for anxiety, as well as other mental health conditions like depression, and work-related stress.








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 my doctor write me out of work for stress? ›

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.

What do I say to my doctor about stress? ›

Things to tell your doctor
  • Make a list of your symptoms and when they began. ...
  • Write down any major stresses in your life, as well as any traumas you've experienced, both past and present.
  • Write down all of your health conditions: mental and physical.
  • Make a list of all medications and supplements you're taking.

How do you say take time off for mental health? ›

You can write something like: “I had to take time off work to recover from an illness. Now I am back on track, and I want to resume my career.” This statement tells the recruiter exactly why there's a gap in your resume and emphasize that you're eager to get back in the workplace.

Do I need a doctors note to be off with stress? ›

Do employees need a sick note for stress-related absence? 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.

Can a doctor write you off work for anxiety? ›

Do you get paid for stress leave at work? Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), you're entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a “serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.”

Can a psychologist write a sick note? ›

Your therapist can assess you, and determine if such a letter is appropriate for you or not. This may take more than one session, and additional fees may apply. Please check with your workplace or school if a letter from a therapist is accepted, as some institutions require a letter from a family doctor.

How do you explain leaving a job due to stress? ›

I am therefore resigning to focus on my mental health. Thank you for all your help and the opportunities you have given me during my time with the company, and thank you for understanding my situation. If there is anything I can do to help make this transition easier, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Can I ask my doctor to take me out of work? ›

Most doctors won't tell patients to take leave (unless they're at serious risk of making their condition worse). Instead, they let patients set their own limits. Assume that your doctor is simply waiting for you to decide that you need a leave of absence.

Can I ask my doctor to write me out of work? ›

How to Get a Doctor's Note. Getting a doctor's note for work is a simple process. When you visit your physician or clinic, simply let them know that you will need a doctor's note to provide to your organization.

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).

What not to say to a psychiatrist? ›

With that said, we're outlining some common phrases that therapists tend to hear from their clients and why they might hinder your progress.
  • “I feel like I'm talking too much.” ...
  • “I'm the worst. ...
  • “I'm sorry for my emotions.” ...
  • “I always just talk about myself.” ...
  • “I can't believe I told you that!” ...
  • “Therapy won't work for me.”
Aug 9, 2021

What does a psychiatrist do for anxiety? ›

In addition to prescribing medications for people with anxiety, psychiatrists are also qualified to provide talk therapy and psychosocial interventions. Common psychotherapies associated with anxiety treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.

How do I ask for mental health off work? ›

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

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.

How do I tell my work I had a bad mental health day? ›

"You can say to your boss, 'I'm taking a day off from work. I'm feeling flat and tired and need a mental health day,'" Dr Burgess said. "If asked you can be quite vague about your personal circumstances. You don't have to talk about anxiety and depression."

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.

Can a doctor refuse 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.

Is mental health a reason to miss work? ›

Calling in sick for mental health reasons is perfectly valid. A sick day can give you time to practice self-care, allowing you to return to your day-to-day life feeling calmer and refreshed. Not all employers may see it this way as stigma against mental illness is still rife.

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.

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.

How do I get a sick note from the doctor for mental health? ›

If you need a fit note, contact the healthcare professional treating you. They will tell you whether you should make an appointment to see them or book a phone consultation. A healthcare professional can give you a fit note on the day they assess you or at any time after the assessment.

Do psychiatrists give doctors notes? ›

There is a good deal of variety regarding what psychiatrists choose to document. Some write very detailed notes; others focus their notes on symptoms and medication but omit personal events they believe a patient would not want documented, and finally, some simply do not write notes on every psychotherapy session.

Can I resign with immediate effect due to mental health? ›

If your stress is impacting your health, you may want to resign immediately so you can focus on getting help. Otherwise, giving notice can help preserve your professional reputation. Assess your current situation and decide which option is best for you, then clearly state your last day in your resignation letter.

Should I quit my job if Im always stressed? ›

If your job is causing you so much stress that it's starting to affect your health, then it may be time to consider quitting or perhaps even asking for fewer responsibilities. You may need to take a simple break from work if stress is impacting you from outside your job.

How do you say you left a toxic workplace? ›

How to explain you left a toxic workplace
  1. Prepare a response before interviewing. ...
  2. Maintain professionalism and stay positive. ...
  3. Briefly mention the reason you left. ...
  4. Shift the focus to discuss your interest. ...
  5. Explain your career goals.
Feb 3, 2023

How long can a doctor keep you out of work? ›

The employer may, of course, verify a doctor's note with your doctor. The FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of time off work for medical related needs, and the employer cannot retaliate by firing or otherwise disciplining the employee.

How do you tell your doctor you can't work anymore? ›

  1. STEP 1 : Start with reality. ...
  2. STEP 2: Adjust your attitude. ...
  3. STEP 3: Make the “space” for a conversation with your doctor about your ability to work. ...
  4. STEP 4: Have a real doctor-patient conversation about your condition and ability to work. ...
  5. STEP 5: Tell your doctor why you are considering or pursuing a disability claim.
Sep 18, 2022

Does my employer have to let me go to the doctor? ›

You're not usually entitled to take time off to go to the doctor, dentist or a hospital appointment - even if you're injured in an accident at work. You should check your employment contract to see if it says you can have time off for these appointments and if you'll get paid.

What does a doctor's note need to say? ›

A note from your doctor can only contain a confirmation that you were examined on a specific date and time together with the days that you should be kept from working because of your illness. If a note contains more information than that, it might violate patient confidentiality laws.

Do employers verify doctors notes? ›

Your employer has the right to contact your doctor to verify the authenticity of a doctor's note but cannot ask about your medical condition or diagnosis.

Can I forge a doctor's note for work? ›

Filling out a doctor's note template with false information or forging a doctor's signature is unethical and illegal. Think twice before forging a doctor's note, there are serious consequences.

How long can a stress leave be? ›

What is stress leave? Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the ESA) gives employees the right to take up to 3 days of unpaid sick leave in a calendar year provided that they have completed at least two full weeks with their current employer.

What do I say 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 ...

How long can you be signed off work with stress? ›

How long can you be signed off work with stress? If you are off work for fewer than seven days, you don't need a sick note for stress and depression. You can 'self-certify'—which means filling in a form when you return to work. This applies to any sickness, not just mental health issues.

What are red flags psychiatrist? ›

What should therapists NOT do?
  • Behave unethically. ...
  • Take you as a client if they don't specialize in your issue. ...
  • Overshare about themselves. ...
  • Leave you feeling worse after your session – regularly. ...
  • Make you feel judged, shamed, or emotionally exposed. ...
  • Disrupt the session by divided attention. ...
  • You just don't feel “right”

How do I tell my psychiatrist I have anxiety? ›

Use clear statements such as “I think I may be depressed” or “I am having trouble with anxiety.” This will help guide them and let them know what direction to go in. Be as open and honest with your doctor as possible. He or she can't help you if they don't know everything that is going on.

Will my psychiatrist judge me? ›

Most therapists will not judge you, says Peter Cellarius, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Gatos, California. If they do — after all, they're human — a good therapist will not let feelings of judgment get in the way of helping you.

What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety? ›

Follow the 3-3-3 rule.

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.

What is considered extreme anxiety? ›

Extreme feelings of fear or anxiety that are out of proportion to the actual threat. Irrational fear or worry about different objects or situations. Avoiding the source of your fear or only enduring it with great anxiety. Withdrawing from social situations or isolating yourself from friends and family.

What are 3 symptoms of anxiety? ›

Signs and Symptoms
  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.
  • Being easily fatigued.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Being irritable.
  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Is it OK to take time off work for stress? ›

Stress leave from work is time off when employees are overwhelmed or stressed and unable to do their job. Time off with stress may be taken to recover from stress-related injuries or illnesses. These can include both physical or emotional symptoms.

How long can you take off work with stress? ›

How long can you be signed off work with stress? If you are off work for fewer than seven days, you don't need a sick note for stress and depression. You can 'self-certify'—which means filling in a form when you return to work. This applies to any sickness, not just mental health issues.

Can you go on medical leave for stress? ›

In California, you may be entitled to protected job leave under state or federal law if your workplace stress impairs your ability to perform your job. This form of stress leave is generally unpaid. However, you may be entitled to paid leave under workers' compensation or temporary disability benefits.

What are 5 emotional signs of stress? ›

Mental or behavioral symptoms include:
  • Being more emotional than usual.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or on edge.
  • Trouble keeping track of things or remembering.
  • Trouble making decisions, solving problems, concentrating, getting your work done.
  • Using alcohol or drugs to relieve your emotional stress.
Dec 29, 2020

How do you tell your boss you're struggling mentally? ›

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.

Is stress a form of mental illness? ›

Stress is not normally considered a mental health problem. But it is connected to our mental health in several ways: Stress can cause mental health problems. And it can make existing problems worse.

Should I take time off work for mental health? ›

It's important to help all employees suffering with mental ill health. By doing so, you'll be able to protect your employees' overall safety and welfare. If you fail to manage mental health sick days, you could face discrimination claims, tribunal hearings, and even reputational damage.

How do I get signed off work with stress and depression? ›

You can self certify for the first 7 days of being off work with stress, and do not have to visit your GP. Mental health problems fall under the same rules on sickness as other illnesses within the workplace. It is important to read and understand your contract and follow correct procedure.

How do you get a doctor to write you out of work? ›

  1. Take note of your company's policies. ...
  2. Make an appointment with your doctor. ...
  3. Place a request for the doctor's note. ...
  4. Ask directly for the note if you are admitted to the hospital. ...
  5. Complete any form your company requires on your return.
Dec 11, 2020

Is stress and anxiety covered under FMLA? ›

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 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.

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