Stress and anxiety are part of nearly every profession. However, if you’ve experienced an abnormal amount of stress or anxiety related to work, you may have a valid workers’ compensation claim.
What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Anxiety and stress are both emotional responses. But, there are minor differences between the two conditions.
Stress materializes as emotional and or physical tension. Typically, stress is caused by an external trigger. Triggers can be short-term or long-term. For example, short-term triggers can include work deadlines or fights with a loved one. Whereas long-term triggers may be brought on by marriage difficulties, financial hardships, or chronic illnesses.
Symptoms of stress include:
- Frequent aches and pains
- Lack of energy or focus
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Upset stomach
Anxiety emerges as a feeling of fear, dread, or uneasiness and frequently accompanies stress. Similarly to stress, there are varying degrees of anxiety.
Nearly everyone has experienced brief encounters with anxiety. For example, you may sweat, feel tense, or have a rapid heartbeat before an important event or during a difficult decision.
Symptoms of anxiety are similar to those of stress and can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
When Does Stress or Anxiety Become Abnormal?
Everyone will experience stress and anxiety at some point in their lives. But, sometimes stress and anxiety exceed typical day-to-day expectations.
Stress that lasts for a long period (for example, weeks or months) is classified as “chronic stress.” Chronic stress can become problematic to one’s health if left untreated. Unfortunately, many people experiencing chronic stress become accustomed to it.
Over time, chronic stress can lead to major health problems. For instance, individuals with chronic stress may develop high blood pressure or heart disease.
Anxiety exceeds the bounds of what’s typical when it gets worse or doesn’t go away. For example, worries and fears may (1) interfere with daily activities, (2) become difficult to control, (3) be out of proportion to the actual danger, and (4) last a long time. When this occurs, the individual may have an anxiety disorder.
Examples of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about ordinary activities, events, and other routine issues.
- Panic Disorder – repeated experiences with panic attacks. For example, sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that peak within minutes.
- Phobia-Related Disorders – anxiety when exposed to a specific object or situation
If you believe you have a stress or anxiety-related disorder contact your doctor for a proper medical diagnosis.
Stress and Anxiety in the Workplace
No matter the attention an employer gives to creating a pleasant work environment, stress is common in most workplaces. But, some factors are more likely than others to cause employees stress and anxiety.
Common sources of stress and anxiety on the job include, but are not limited to:
- Poor management
- Long hours
- Heavy workload
- Tight deadlines
- Organizational changes
- Job insecurity
- Poor work relationships (i.e. with coworkers and/or boss)
- Crisis incidents (i.e. armed robberies or workplace deaths)
Workers’ Compensation Eligibility
Workers’ compensation laws are different in each state. Thus, depending on where your claim arose, you may need to satisfy different elements to be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Massachusetts has a fairly liberal approach regarding workers’ compensation for mental injuries. In Massachusetts, employees may recover for “emotional disabilities only where the predominant contributing cause of such disability is an event or series of events occurring within any employment.”
“Emotional disability” encompasses conditions such as stress and anxiety.
However, to receive workers’ compensation for stress or anxiety, an employee must prove multiple factors:
- The employee sustained stress or anxiety following events in the workplace,
- The workplace events were the main cause of the employee’s stress or anxiety, and
- The employee’s stress and anxiety exceeded the typical stress and anxiety to be expected in the workplace
New Hampshire’s workers’ compensation laws are a bit more strict when it comes to mental injuries such as stress and anxiety. In New Hampshire, an element of physical manifestation is required for workers’ compensation claims.
Further, mental injuries are not compensable if caused by disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination, or any similar action, taken in good faith by an employer.
Thus, for an employee to receive workers’ compensation for stress or anxiety, they will need to show that their condition comes with a physical element and that the stress or anxiety was brought on by something more than the typical stressors associated with any job.
In Rhode Island, “The disablement of an employee resulting from mental injury caused or accompanied by identifiable physical trauma or from a mental injury caused by emotional stress resulting from a situation of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension which all employees encounter daily without serious mental injury shall be treated as an injury.”
Therefore, in Rhode Island to receive workers’ compensation for stress or anxiety an employee will need to show:
- The mental injury was caused by or coincides with physical trauma, or
- The mental injury was caused by emotional stress far greater than what is to be expected normally on the job
Do You Think You Have a Stress or Anxiety-Related Workers’ Compensation Claim? We Can Help.
Navigating workers’ compensation is tricky. But, Keches Law Group’s skilled and experienced workers’ compensation lawyers are prepared to assist you.
If you believe you have a workers’ compensation claim, Keches Law Group can help! Contact us today.