Stressed employees at work

Understanding the Most Common Mental Disorders in the U.S. and How It Affects Your Business

• Mental health is an essential but often overlooked issue in businesses, with 1 in 5 American adults with a mental illness.

• Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental illnesses, with worrying symptoms affecting productivity.

• Substance abuse and eating disorders can decrease productivity, fatigue, absenteeism, financial difficulties, and impaired judgment.

• It’s essential to create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health without fear of stigma or repercussions.

Your business suffers from various problems. But nothing comes close to mental disorders among your employees. Unfortunately, this is a growing problem in the U.S. and might even cost you your business. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Mental Disorders and Your Business

Mental health is an important yet often overlooked topic, especially in business. Yet, according to a 2019 National Alliance on Mental Illness report, 1 in 5 adults in the United States has a mental illness, with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse being some of the most common conditions.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, it’s essential to understand these mental disorders to support better your employees and customers who may be dealing with mental health issues.

Depression mature man


Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in America today. While everyone sometimes experiences sadness due to life events or other circumstances, depression is more persistent and intense than regular sadness. Symptoms of depression include prolonged sadness/emptiness, fatigue, trouble sleeping/sleeping too much, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating, irritability/anger outbursts, changes in appetite/weight loss or gain, and thoughts of suicide or death. However, it’s essential to recognize that not all people experience depression similarly—some may only have a few symptoms while others have many more.

Depression has been known to be related to low productivity and absenteeism in the workplace. Therefore, it’s essential to take note of any changes in an employee’s productivity or behavior and be aware that they could be signs of depression, even if the person themselves is not ready to talk about it.


Anxiety is another common mental disorder with symptoms including excessive worrying (overthinking), restlessness/trouble sleeping, physical tension/tightness (e.g., headaches), racing thoughts/obsessive thinking patterns, and avoidance (of particular situations/people).

It’s vital to note that while anxiety can be expected under certain circumstances (public speaking), it becomes a problem when it interferes with daily life (avoidance behavior) or when its intensity is disproportionate to what’s called for by a given situation (elevated heart rate during check-in at a restaurant).

Anxious employees can have a range of impacts on the workplace, including decreased productivity, higher absenteeism, and trouble with interpersonal relationships. Therefore, it is essential to create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues without fear of repercussions or stigma.

Woman with dysphoria

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse includes drug use – whether prescribed or not – and alcohol consumption beyond socially acceptable limits. It’s also important to remember that not all people suffering from substance abuse are necessarily addicted; some use drugs “recreationally” without developing an addiction or dependence. Signs that someone may be experiencing substance abuse include impaired judgment (risky behavior), changes in physical appearance (weight loss/ gain), mood swings (irritability), financial difficulties (due to their habit), and legal problems related to their drug use.

Substance abuse can lead to an employee binge drinking at work. This can have dangerous consequences, including decreased productivity and employee morale. Furthermore, it can hurt the company’s reputation if customers or clients become aware of an employee’s poor behavior due to substance abuse. Therefore, having a weekly support group for these employees is good for drastically reducing their addiction.

Eating Disorders

Lastly, there are eating disorders. Eating disorders are conditions characterized by disturbed or disordered eating patterns, an intense fear of weight gain, and distorted body image. Common types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (extreme restriction on calories), bulimia nervosa (binge-eating followed by purging), and binge-eating disorder (recurrent episodes of compulsive eating without purging).

Employees with eating disorders can suffer from decreased productivity, fatigue, and absenteeism. They might also be more prone to developing physical illnesses due to their unhealthy lifestyle. You can get help from an eating disorder center near you to deal with this disorder. They are equipped with the necessary medical professionals and treatments to help people overcome these disorders.

Managing Mental Disorders

You must create an environment that allows employees to feel comfortable discussing mental health issues and seek help without fear of stigma or repercussions. Checking in with employees can be an excellent strategy for managing it.

Checking With Employees

Regularly checking in with employees and asking how they’re doing can be an excellent way to ensure that any mental health issues are addressed proactively rather than waiting for the problem to become apparent. You could create a policy or protocol around this practice, ensuring it is voluntary and confidential.

Mental health is a severe issue; entrepreneurs and business owners must recognize their employees’ signs of mental illness. Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their mental health issues without fear of stigma or repercussions is essential for providing them with the support they need. In addition, taking preventive measures and providing employees access to the right mental health resources is the best way to ensure everyone stays healthy and productive in the workplace.

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