This question:

Panic attack in interview: Just leave or explain?

Has a top voted answer that - basically - recommends NOT telling people upfront that a person has mental health issues that result in panic attacks under stress (not being a mental health professional, I have a weak suspicion that this isn't the full extent of the asker's possible issues, but this question is laser focused on panic attacks).

What are the downsides of NOT being honest and explaining that you have such a condition while interviewing (with the intent of not disclosing it after being hired as well, just to be clear), as the top voted answer to that question seems to imply?

Can you be fired once they find out due to the person having a panic attack in the middle of important client meeting, or (even for Office Space type programming job involving no contact with a client) a production emergency?

Just to clarify: although the Q&A that inspired this question was about interviews, the premise here is that you already are hired and still didn't disclose the mental health issue to HR and/or boss. As far as I'm aware, it's not really a problem if you don't disclose during interview but then tell the company upon hiring.

  • 2
    The OP of the other question seems to be well aware of which situations are risks for a panic attack. In reality I think lots of things can happen to lots of people for various reasons and I don't see why we should singly worry about panic attacks. A simple example is a family emergency. If this happens during a client meeting, obviously you'll be out the door at once and you'll not have had the courtesy to prepare a "I'm having a family emergency and must leave. Please accept my apologies." card.
    – Brandin
    May 30, 2015 at 22:15
  • 1
    To be clear, I did NOT imply that the asker of that question should not disclose the anxiety disorder after being hired, should it become relevant. Even in the interview, if asked "how do you feel about public speaking" if the answer is "I will probably have a panic attack" then that is the answer. My advice was confined entirely to the interview and the chances of a panic attack during that time, since interviews are so different from regular work. Go ahead and ask this question but please don't put words in my mouth. May 31, 2015 at 12:30
  • @KateGregory - that's why I said "seems to imply". This was my interpretation of what your answer suggests, but wasn't sure.
    – user13655
    May 31, 2015 at 14:13
  • 1
    Your small print shows a really good reason not to mention it before the interview. You know nothing about this person except that they sometimes have panic attacks, and you're perfectly willing to suspect they have a variety of mental health conditions. That's why it's risky to reveal things before they're relevant: some people go off on assumptions and suspicions, and that never ends well. May 31, 2015 at 14:35
  • I agree with Brandin that we should not signal out panic attacks, or other mental issues. A person might suffer from acute migraine, hay fever, or cat allergy, for example, all of which can affect an "important client meeting or […] a production emergency". That said, it is a good idea to pick a job that will both be less affected by your condition, and doesn't have a negative effect on your health.
    – Kobi
    Jun 1, 2015 at 6:28

2 Answers 2


IANAL. If you get fired due to a panic attack, you're probably a surgeon who failed to disclose a known condition and led to the severe injury or death of your patient on the table. Or a bomb technicial who snipped the red wire instead of the black accidentally, and are lucky enough to have this happen during a drill so you're alive to be sacked.

What I'm getting at is, there are situations where your negligence can put others at risk. If you have a condition that prevents you from doing your job without risking loss of life, and you fail to disclose that condition, you have opened yourself up to be fired and face charges later. (I got another one: Or a pilot who's afraid of heights! Ha!)

Everything else is unlikely to provoke such a drastic reaction. At the most you won't be given another high-value client to handle until your employer is confident you won't have another meltdown. As a matter of fact, if you haven't been negligent with making sufficient arrangements for your condition, firing you will likely make your boss vulnerable to a wrongful termination lawsuit.

What I don't understand is the bit about honesty. Why would not informing someone of a medical condition be dishonest? You are not obliged to do so, unless you want reasonable steps taken to help with it. And that's once you've been hired and the "someone" is your boss; until then, the interviewer is just a stranger with whom you're trying to raise rapport.

  • the assumption is that the person would not disclose the condition to HR upon hiring (not simply neglect to mention it during interview, which I totally agree isn't exactly a big deal). Clarified my wording
    – user13655
    May 30, 2015 at 21:35

Statute and case law varies. Ask your union rep or whoever else you would normally consult for employment advice specific to your jurisdiction.

That said, most places you're only required to disclose if asked or, if they neglect to ask, if there is a foreseeable safety risk to yourself or others.

A good employer should only really ask up front if there is anything they need to do to accommodate you at interview, then, after a conditional offer, medical conditions likely to substantially affect your work or which you want them to make accommodations for - rare panic attacks may be no more disruptive to the working environment than an extra toilet break once a month. They don't need your whole medical history, indeed in some places storing 'excessive' detail might be illegal, and the burden is on anyone storing the data to justify retaining it.

Whether it is advisable to disclose depends on what you know about your employer, and how willing you are to fight them legally (or your colleagues are willing to fight them industrially) if they suddenly decide they don't want you as an employee any more. Prejudice about things like mental health can be quite widespread and well hidden.

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