Tips on Dealing with Depression in Relationships: Guest Post — Mental Health @ Home

This guest post on dealing with depression in relationships, either as the depressed or the non-depressed person, comes from Marimeia of Through Anxiety and Beyond. We’ve done a guest post tradesies, and you can read my post about how fabulous all of you are on her blog here. I have recently been to visit a […]

Tips on Dealing with Depression in Relationships: Guest Post — Mental Health @ Home

Disability discrimination

What is a disability?

You have to show that your mental health problem is a disability to get the protection of the Equality Act.

‘Disability’ has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act, which is broader than the usual way you might understand the word. Even if you don’t think you have a disability, the Equality Act may protect you from discrimination if your mental health problem fits its definition of disability.

The Equality Act says you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The focus is on the effect of your mental health problem, rather than the diagnosis. So you need to show that your mental health problem:

  • has more than a small effect on your everyday life
  • makes things more difficult for you, and
  • has lasted at least 12 months, is likely to last 12 months, or (if your mental health problem has improved) that it is likely to recur.

Examples of ‘substantial adverse effect’

Simon has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He has to check and recheck whether lights are switched off and doors are locked. This can make him late for work or other appointments. His obsessive thoughts often distract him from activities that he is doing and disrupt his daily routines. His mental health problem therefore has a substantial adverse effect on the way he does things.

Examples of ‘long term’

  • Jenny has had depression for 10 months and the doctor says it will be likely to last at least another 4 to 5 months.
  • Selina has bipolar affective disorder. She had her first and second episode in January 2013, then a third episode in January 2014. Even though there was a gap between her second and third episode, her mental health problem is considered to have continued over the whole period (in this case, a period of 13 months).

What if I’m getting medication or treatment for my mental health problem?

If you are getting some treatment or taking medication for your condition, you ignore the effect of your treatment when deciding whether your condition is having a substantial, adverse effect on your daily activities. This means the law is looking at how your condition affects you without your treatment or medication.

Example

Mohammed has long-term anxiety and is being treated by counselling. Anxiety would normally make him find simple tasks difficult. Because he has counselling, he is able to get up and go to work.

The Equality Act says you have to ignore his treatment in deciding whether his mental health problem has a substantial adverse effect on his day-to-day activities and so he has a disability.

What if I had a disability in the past?

You are still protected from discrimination if you had a disability in the past. That means that if your past mental health problem had a substantial, long-term and adverse effect, you will get the protection of the Equality Act.

Examples

Four years ago, Mary had depression that lasted 2 years and had a substantial effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. She has not experienced depression since then.

If Mary is treated worse by her employer because of her past mental health problem, she will be protected by the Equality Act.

Checklist: Is my mental health problem a disability?

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a mental or physical health impairment?
  2. Is it long-term (meaning lasting more than 12 months or likely to do so)?
  3. Does it have a more than minor adverse effect on my day-to-day living, if I discount my treatment or medication?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then your mental health problem could get the protection of the Equality Act.

If you want to get the protection of the Equality Act, you may find it helpful to get some evidence from your GP, or another medical professional. You can ask them to write a letter saying whether they think you have a disability under the Equality Act. It would be particularly useful if they can give their opinion on the answer to each of these three questions.

Example

Esra doesn’t consider herself disabled because she doesn’t receive disability benefits and she is physically healthy.

Esra has been living with an anxiety disorder for the past 3 years. Because of this, it takes her a longer time to do things like get up in the morning, dress herself for the day and do the shopping. She takes medication to control the symptoms.

Esra would be protected by the Equality Act because she has:

  • a mental impairment – an anxiety disorder
  • it is long term – she has had it for the past 3 years
  • it has a substantial effect on her daily life – her mental health has a major effect on her daily life when you ignore the effect of her medication  
  • it has an adverse effect – her mental health problem makes things more difficult for her.

What are the different types of discrimination?

The Equality Act only protects people who have a disability against these types of discrimination:

It is possible that you have experienced discrimination in more than one way.

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination is when you are treated worse than someone else because you have a disability. You have to show that there is a link between your disability and the way you have been treated, which can be difficult. However, you don’t always have to provide an example of a particular non-disabled person who was treated better than you if it is clear from all the circumstances that your disability was the reason why you were treated as you were.

Discrimination by association: you may be treated worse because of your connection or association with another person with a disability, even if you don’t have a disability yourself.

Discrimination by perception: you can also be treated worse because a person or organisation believes you do have a disability when you don’t.

Examples of direct discrimination

  • Jon is not offered a promotion because he has depression. But his colleague Harry, who does not have depression, is offered a promotion – even though he has less experience and fewer qualifications.
  • Carrie is interviewed for a job. She has better qualifications and more experience than all the other candidates, and performs the best at the interview. One of the interviewers knows of Carrie’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Carrie is not offered the job, but neither are any of the other candidates. Carrie hasn’t clearly been treated worse than any of the other candidates, but she has been treated worse than a non-disabled person would have been treated in the same situation.
  • Jenny is not offered an apprenticeship after she tells the training provider that she has caring responsibilities for her partner, who has a mental health problem. This is an example of discrimination by association.
  • A bank incorrectly assumed that David had a long-term mental health problem. They refused him a loan for this reason, even though he has no mental health problem. This is an example of discrimination by perception.

Discrimination arising from disability

This is where you are treated badly not because of your disability but because of something that happens because of your disability.

Unlike direct discrimination, there is no need for you to compare yourself with anyone else. You just have to show that you were treated badly, and this treatment was linked to your disability.

You don’t need to show that the person who treated you badly was aware that the behaviour was due to your disability, but they do need to be aware that you have a disability.

Examples of discrimination arising from disability

  • Peter experiences psychosis and hears voices, which he manages by talking to them. Staff in a shop ask Peter to leave when he is talking to his voices. Peter has been treated unfavourably because of behaviour related to his disability.
  • Jan is given a disciplinary warning from her employer for taking sickness-related absences because of her bipolar disorder. Her employer’s decision to treat this as a disciplinary matter may be discrimination arising from Jan’s disability.

Situations when unfavourable treatment might not be discrimination

There are some situations in which it might be lawful for a person or organisation to treat you unfavourably. These are if they can show that:

there were valid intentions behind their action (such as ensuring the health and safety of others, or keeping up staff attendance so that their business can run properly), and that it was an appropriate action to take in the circumstance (legally this is called a ‘justification‘), or
they did not know you had a disability (and could not reasonably have known).

For example, in Jan’s situation above, her employer might argue that the reason why they disciplined her was because they need to keep up staff attendance – therefore their action was justified. Jan might accept that her employer’s intentions were valid, but argue that the action they took was much too harsh and not appropriate in the circumstance – therefore their action was not justified.

Whoever is deciding whether or not unfavourable treatment is justified needs to balance the needs of both sides carefully, which can be very complicated.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is where:

  • a person or organisation has practices or arrangements that seem to treat everyone in an equal, non-discriminatory way, but
  • these practices or arrangements put you and others with your disability at a disadvantage compared with those who do not have your disability.

Examples of indirect discrimination

  • An advice centre will only provide advice to people who visit their centre and will not offer advice by phone or email. This practice puts people with mental health problems like agoraphobia at a disadvantage because they can’t leave their homes to travel to the centre.
  • An employer only offers promotions to people who have a driving licence and are able to drive even though this is not a key requirement of the job. This will discriminate against people with mental health problems that prevent them from holding a driving licence.

For indirect discrimination, it doesn’t matter whether the person or organisation knew about your disability. This means they have to plan in advance and think about how their policies and practices may affect people with mental health problems.

But it is not indirect discrimination if the person or organisation can show these practices and arrangements were justified.

Harassment

Harassment is behaviour from others that you don’t want, that:

  • violates your dignity or creates an environment that is intimidating, degrading, offensive or humiliating, and
  • relates to a disability. It does not have to relate to a disability that you have.

Examples of harassment

  • Mary has an eating disorder. Mary’s manager knows she has an eating disorder and she makes offensive remarks in the open plan office about people with anorexia.
  • Steve has schizoaffective disorder. He is on a day out from inpatient treatment in a psychiatric hospital and is eating with fellow patients at a local café. A member of staff who knows he is a psychiatric patient uses silent gestures and mime to make fun of him. Steve is very upset.

Victimisation

Victimisation is when an employer or organisation puts you at a disadvantage just because:

  • you have made allegation about discrimination, or
  • you have supported someone who has made an allegation of discrimination

Examples of victimisation

  • Jibin’s colleague has bipolar disorder. Jibin supports her colleague to complain to their employer about disability discrimination. After this, Jibin’s manager refuses her promotion on the basis that her loyalty to the company is in question.
  • Deb has an anxiety disorder. She complains to her local supermarket that she genuinely believes that she has been discriminated against by an assistant who made remarks about her condition in front of customers. After this, the manager says she should shop elsewhere.

Making reasonable adjustments

The Equality Act says that employers and service providers should think about making reasonable adjustments (in other words, changes), if you are at a substantial disadvantage compared to other people who do not have a mental health problem.

Reasonable adjustments include:

  • making changes to the way things are organised or done
  • making changes to the built environment, or physical features around you (for example physical features of a building that put a disabled person at substantial disadvantage)
  • providing aids and services for you to overcome the substantial disadvantage.

You cannot be asked to pay for the cost of reasonable adjustments. If a person or organisation does not make reasonable adjustments when it would have been reasonable to do, this will be unlawful discrimination.

To find out more, see our pages on asking for reasonable adjustments from:

Examples of reasonable adjustments

  • Sylvie is working in an office and has depression. She is taking part in a supported employment scheme from the workplace mental health support scheme. Her employer lets her make private phone calls to her support worker in the working day as a reasonable adjustment.
  • Tomasz has a range of problems with anxiety, and he gets particularly anxious travelling on crowded public transport. He speaks to his manager about his mental health problem and explains that he is finding it hard to get to work in the morning travelling during the rush hour. Tomasz’s manager agrees to adjust his working hours so that he comes into work before the morning rush hour and leaves before the evening rush hour. His employer would not have to make adjustments if they did not know about Tomasz’s condition, or how it was affecting his working life.

Insomnia

Insomnia is when you find it difficult getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. It can affect your quality of life if you feel tired and find it hard to concentrate during the day.

man looking out window

About insomnia

It’s important to have enough good quality sleep in order to function properly – it helps to rest and repair your body and mind. Most adults need around seven to nine hours’ sleep each night.

Insomnia is thought to affect about a third of people in the UK. You’re more likely to have difficulty sleeping as you get older because your sleep pattern changes – half of people over 65 have insomnia at some point.

Symptoms of insomnia

If you have insomnia, it means that despite having the time and opportunity to get enough sleep, you may:

  • have difficulty getting to sleep
  • difficulty staying asleep (waking up often and finding it hard to get back to sleep)
  • wake up early in the morning
  • feel tired, irritable and unable to concentrate the next day

You might have such problems for a few weeks (short-term insomnia) or they may carry on for longer (long-term insomnia). If you continue to have trouble sleeping over a long time, it can really start to affect all aspects of your life – including work or school, and your social and home life. It can also make you more likely to develop various health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and depression.

Causes of insomnia

There can be many things that contribute to insomnia. Here are just some of the potential causes. 

  • Environmental factors such as noise, light seeping through your blinds, an uncomfortable bed or feeling too hot or cold can all affect your ability to sleep.
  • Lifestyle habits such as an irregular sleep routine, eating late at night, not getting enough exercise, or exercising too late at night can make it difficult to sleep.
  • Something causing you temporary stress or worry such as a new job, work stress, financial concerns or a bereavement in the family may keep you awake.
  • Having a mental health condition such as stress, anxiety or depression may cause insomnia.
  • Jet lag and shift work can disturb your sleep patterns.
  • Drinking alcohol can have a significant impact on your quality of sleep. Many people see alcohol as a way to help with sleep problems; but the effect it has on your sleep can make the situation worse.
  • Too much caffeine – for instance, drinking lots of tea and coffee – can keep you awake.
  • Certain medicines including antidepressants and medicines for high blood pressure and epilepsy can affect how well you sleep.
  • Certain health conditions such as an overactive thyroid, asthma, acid reflux or heart disease can make it hard to sleep. Night sweats due to the menopause may cause insomnia. For more information on this, see our FAQ: Can the menopause cause insomnia?

Self help for insomnia

It’s worth thinking about ways to improve your sleep habits and routines to help you to sleep well. This is often referred to as ‘sleep hygiene’. Here are some do’s and don’ts to try.

Dos

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine by going to bed and getting up at roughly the same times every day. Try not to sleep in late to compensate for a bad night’s sleep.
  • Make sure you get some regular exercise, but don’t do any strenuous activity within four hours of going to bed because this might disturb your sleep.
  • Try to relax before bedtime. You could try having a warm bath, a warm milky drink, reading or listening to soothing music to help you relax. Some people find meditation or mindfulness techniques helpful. There are guides available online that you can try for free.
  • If you can’t sleep within half an hour or so, get up and do something relaxing like reading until you feel tired enough to sleep. If something is on your mind, write it down and aim to deal with it the next day.
  • Make sure your bedroom is comfortable – not too hot, cold, noisy or bright – and you have a supportive, comfy mattress on your bed.
  • Where possible, try to avoid using your bedroom for work.

Don’ts

  • Don’t have any drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol within six hours of going to bed.
  • Don’t smoke before you go to bed.
  • Don’t eat a heavy or rich meal late at night.
  • Try not to clock-watch. It might make you feel more frustrated about being awake and stop you getting back to sleep.
  • Try to have a break from screen time, including phones and tablets before bed. Using these devices at bedtime is associated with inadequate sleep – particularly in children.
  • Don’t take naps during the day. It can make it difficult for you to sleep at night.

Seeking help for insomnia

If you’ve tried the self-help measures and you’re still having trouble sleeping, it’s worth seeing your GP for advice. Your GP will ask you about your sleep patterns and how lack of sleep might be impacting your life. They may also examine you to look for any signs of a physical condition that could affect your sleep. Most of the time, your GP will be able to tell if you’re having sleep problems and what might be causing them just from talking to you.

If there doesn’t seem to be an obvious cause for your insomnia, they may suggest keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. It can be a good idea to do this before your appointment. Record things like:

  • the time you go to bed
  • how long it takes you to get to sleep
  • how often you wake up during the night and for how long
  • what time you wake up in the morning
  • if you feel tired during the day or have any naps
  • your mealtimes and how much alcohol and caffeine you drink during the day
  • how much exercise you do or any significant events during the day

Devices that track your sleep can often give you an estimate of the amount of sleep you’re getting. But they’re not always very accurate, so you shouldn’t rely on them. If your GP thinks you might have a specific sleep disorder, they may refer you to a sleep specialist for more tests. For more information, see our FAQ, What do tests for insomnia involve?

If you need help now

This page is designed to provide general health information. If you need help now, please use the following services.

If you think you might harm yourself or are worried someone else might come to immediate harm, call the emergency services on 999 or go to your local accident and emergency department.

Treatment of insomnia

If you have any health conditions that could be affecting your sleep, your GP will make sure you’re receiving the right treatment for these. For instance, if you’re waking up due to pain or hot flushes, your GP can prescribe treatment. They will also go through the sleep hygiene measures listed in the section, Self-help for insomnia. They may suggest some of the following treatment options.  

Behavioural therapies

If you’ve been having trouble sleeping for several weeks or more, your GP may suggest referring you to psychological services to try a behavioural therapy. These may include the following.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you to recognise and deal with any negative thoughts and habits around your sleep. CBT is often combined with one of the other methods.
  • Stimulus-control therapy can help you to re-associate your bed and bedroom with going to sleep and to create a regular sleep routine.
  • Relaxation therapy can help you relax your muscles and clear your mind of distracting thoughts.
  • Sleep-restriction therapy limits the amount of time you spend in bed to the time when you actually go to sleep. You can then gradually increase the time you spend in bed as your sleep improves.

Your GP may refer you to an appropriate specialist who can provide these therapies, or they may provide you with self-help materials. In some areas, your GP may be able to give you access to online CBT-based self-help tools, such as Sleepio.

Medicines

Doctors only recommend medicines for insomnia (sleeping pills) as a last resort, if you’re unable to function during the day because of insomnia. These medicines are often associated with side-effects such as making you feel sleepy the next day. They also become gradually less effective the longer you take them, and you can become dependent on them if you take them for a long time. If you take them, you should only use them for as short a time as possible.

The main types of sleeping tablets include the following.

  • Antihistamines, which you can buy over-the-counter from your pharmacy without a prescription. Examples are Nytol, Phenergan and Sominex. These aren’t suitable if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have certain health conditions. If you’re in any doubt, check with your pharmacist or doctor before taking them.
  • Hypnotic medicines, which your GP may prescribe for a limited time if your insomnia is having a really severe effect on your day-to-day life. Examples include benzodiazepines, such as temazepam or loprazolam, and non-benzodiazepine ‘z-drugs’, such as zopiclone, zaleplon or zolpidem.
  • Melatonin, which your doctor may prescribe for up to 13 weeks, if you’re over 55 and are having ongoing problems with insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces, which helps to control your sleep pattern. It’s worth bearing in mind that it can cause some side-effects like headaches and joint pain.

If you take sleeping pills, be sure to follow any advice from your doctor or pharmacist, and take note of any warnings in the information leaflet. These may include not driving or operating machinery during the day after using them, for example.

Complementary therapies

There isn’t enough good quality research to show whether complementary therapies like acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal remedies help with insomnia, but some people do try them. If you decide to give them a try, make sure you choose a reputable practitioner, registered with the appropriate regulatory body.

Frequently asked questions

  • Can the menopause cause insomnia? Yes, insomnia is common during the menopause – often because of symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. Making a few lifestyle changes can help to reduce hot flushes and night sweats. Try wearing lighter clothing or sleeping in a cooler room. And try to avoid potential triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine, smoking and alcoholic drinks.If you’re finding it difficult to manage symptoms of the menopause, your GP may suggest trying hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This can help to control your symptoms, which in turn, may help you to sleep. There are risks and benefits of taking HRT, so it’s important to talk these through with your GP.
  • How do I know if I’m getting a good night’s sleep?The amount of sleep you need is individual to you, but most adults need about seven to nine hours’ sleep a night. General signs of a good night’s sleep include:
    • it taking you less than half an hour to fall asleep
    • you have fewer than three ‘mini wakes’ (when you briefly wake up for a minute or two) – throughout the night
    • feeling refreshed once you’ve woken up in the morning
      If you’re having trouble getting to sleep and feel that it’s affecting your life, contact your GP for advice.
  • What do tests for insomnia involve? Most people with insomnia can be diagnosed simply by describing their symptoms to their GP. If your GP thinks your insomnia may be caused by a specific sleep disorder, they may refer you to a sleep clinic or a specialist for further tests. Such disorders include sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome. Specific sleep disorder tests include the following.
    • Actigraphy. This can track your sleep habits over extended periods of several days or more. You wear a small, wristwatch-sized device that monitors your movement in relation to times of day.
    • A polysomnography test can record your brain activity, eye movements, sleep quality, heart rate and blood pressure, and assess your breathing. You’ll usually need to stay overnight at a sleep clinic for this test, although some private clinics offer a service where it can be performed in your own home.
      Your doctor may use these tests alongside sleep diaries to identify any sleep-related problems that you may have.

Depression, Anxiety & Me

Around the year 2000 I started suffering Depression, Anxiety and what I remember most about it was I had no get up and go about me. (I just couldn’t be bothered). As far as the anxiety was concerned I would get up tight about things to a point where I realised I was holding my breath. ( Not a clever idea is it?)

There are two things that stick in my mind even all these years later about my depression and anxiety,

Around this time our daughter was 8/9yrs old and we decided to hire a static caravan in Northumberland here in the UK along with my parents. As my wife wasn’t sure of the way there my father said he knew how to get where we were going.

It was on the road home an anxiety issue arose because despite being told to follow my father, my wife overtook my father and I and up ahead their was a fork in the road. She should have taken the fork to the right when she took the fork to left. This meant my father and I waiting at that junction anxiously till they reappeared.

Having Depression and anxiety quite often meant I couldn’t go further than my front door. I am a uniformed Salvationist of the Salvation Army and I can even remember every Sunday for weeks on end putting my uniform on (except jacket) until it came time to go and I would come to put jacket on and I couldn’t. Nerves and anxiety got the better of me and I used to ask my wife to call the Church to say I wouldn’t be there.

The main factor that played a part in my recovery was every week my father came to see me and we didn’t just talk about my depression we had general conversations as well. I also used to get regular visits from my then pastor who used to suffer from Clinical Depression, again the discussion I had with him again were general.

There’s a saying on one of the UK’s tv channel’s says “It’s good to talk”.

What We Do Not See — BeautyBeyondBones

The devastation of an eating disorder is not only physical, but also social. It is an isolating disease that takes years for relationships to rebuild. How a Halloween party reminds this recovery warrior just how far God has delivered her, and how He is a Father that keeps His promises. #recovery #anorexia #eatingdisorder #edrecovery #catholic #christianity #god #jesus #bible #prayer

What We Do Not See — BeautyBeyondBones

Disability

  • What is a disability?
  • What if I’m getting medication or treatment for my mental health problem?
  • What if I had a disability in the past?
  • Checklist: Is my mental health problem a disability?

What is a disability?

You have to show that your mental health problem is a disability to get the protection of the Equality Act.

‘Disability’ has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act, which is broader than the usual way you might understand the word. Even if you don’t think you have a disability, the Equality Act may protect you from discrimination if your mental health problem fits its definition of disability.

The Equality Act says you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The focus is on the effect of your mental health problem, rather than the diagnosis. So you need to show that your mental health problem:

  • has more than a small effect on your everyday life
  • makes things more difficult for you, and
  • has lasted at least 12 months, is likely to last 12 months, or (if your mental health problem has improved) that it is likely to recur.

Examples of ‘substantial adverse effect’

Simon has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He has to check and recheck whether lights are switched off and doors are locked. This can make him late for work or other appointments. His obsessive thoughts often distract him from activities that he is doing and disrupt his daily routines. His mental health problem therefore has a substantial adverse effect on the way he does things.

Examples of ‘long term’

  • Jenny has had depression for 10 months and the doctor says it will be likely to last at least another 4 to 5 months.
  • Selina has bipolar affective disorder. She had her first and second episode in January 2013, then a third episode in January 2014. Even though there was a gap between her second and third episode, her mental health problem is considered to have continued over the whole period (in this case, a period of 13 months).

What if I’m getting medication or treatment for my mental health problem?

If you are getting some treatment or taking medication for your condition, you ignore the effect of your treatment when deciding whether your condition is having a substantial, adverse effect on your daily activities. This means the law is looking at how your condition affects you without your treatment or medication.

Example

Mohammed has long-term anxiety and is being treated by counselling. Anxiety would normally make him find simple tasks difficult. Because he has counselling, he is able to get up and go to work.

The Equality Act says you have to ignore his treatment in deciding whether his mental health problem has a substantial adverse effect on his day-to-day activities and so he has a disability.

What if I had a disability in the past?

You are still protected from discrimination if you had a disability in the past. That means that if your past mental health problem had a substantial, long-term and adverse effect, you will get the protection of the Equality Act.

Examples

Four years ago, Mary had depression that lasted 2 years and had a substantial effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. She has not experienced depression since then.

If Mary is treated worse by her employer because of her past mental health problem, she will be protected by the Equality Act.

Checklist: Is my mental health problem a disability?

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a mental or physical health impairment?
  2. Is it long-term (meaning lasting more than 12 months or likely to do so)?
  3. Does it have a more than minor adverse effect on my day-to-day living, if I discount my treatment or medication?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then your mental health problem could get the protection of the Equality Act.

If you want to get the protection of the Equality Act, you may find it helpful to get some evidence from your GP, or another medical professional. You can ask them to write a letter saying whether they think you have a disability under the Equality Act. It would be particularly useful if they can give their opinion on the answer to each of these three questions.

Example

Esra doesn’t consider herself disabled because she doesn’t receive disability benefits and she is physically healthy.

Esra has been living with an anxiety disorder for the past 3 years. Because of this, it takes her a longer time to do things like get up in the morning, dress herself for the day and do the shopping. She takes medication to control the symptoms.

Esra would be protected by the Equality Act because she has:

  • a mental impairment – an anxiety disorder
  • it is long term – she has had it for the past 3 years
  • it has a substantial effect on her daily life – her mental health has a major effect on her daily life when you ignore the effect of her medication  
  • it has an adverse effect – her mental health problem makes things more difficult for her.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.

What are anxiety disorders?

Anxiety can be experienced in lots of different ways. If your experiences meet certain criteria your doctor might diagnose you with a specific anxiety disorder.

Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – this means having regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things in your everyday life. Because there are lots of possible symptoms of anxiety this can be quite a broad diagnosis, meaning that the problems you experience with GAD might be quite different from another person’s experiences.
  • Social anxiety disorder – this diagnosis means you experience extreme fear or anxiety triggered by social situations (such as parties, workplaces, or everyday situations where you have to talk to another person). It is also known as social phobia. See our page on types of phobia for more information.
  • Panic disorder – this means having regular or frequent panic attacks without a clear cause or trigger. Experiencing panic disorder can mean that you feel constantly afraid of having another panic attack, to the point that this fear itself can trigger your panic attacks. See our page on panic attacks for more information.
  • Phobias – a phobia is an extreme fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as going outside) or a particular object (such as spiders). See our pages on phobias for more information.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – this is a diagnosis you may be given if you develop anxiety problems after going through something you found traumatic. PTSD can involve experiencing flashbacks or nightmares which can feel like you’re re-living all the fear and anxiety you experienced at the time of the traumatic events. See our pages on PTSD and complex PTSD for more information.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – you may be given this diagnosis if your anxiety problems involve having repetitive thoughts, behaviours or urges. See our pages on OCD for more information.
  • Health anxiety – this means you experience obsessions and compulsions relating to illness, including researching symptoms or checking to see if you have them. It is related to OCD. You can find out more about health anxiety on the Anxiety UK website.
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) – this means you experience obsessions and compulsions relating to your physical appearance. See our pages on BDD for more information.
  • Perinatal anxiety or perinatal OCD – some people develop anxiety problems during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. See our pages on perinatal anxiety and perinatal OCD for more information.

You might not have, or want, a diagnosis of a particular anxiety disorder – but it might still be useful to learn more about these different diagnoses to help you think about your own experiences of anxiety, and consider options for support.

Anxiety and other mental health problems

It’s very common to experience anxiety alongside other mental health problems, such as depression or suicidal feelings. If you have symptoms of both anxiety and depression but don’t fit one more clearly than the other, you might be given a diagnosis of ‘mixed anxiety and depressive disorder’.


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