I am software lead, and for the past few years, my attention span and my ability to remain focused at work have gradually reduced.

I have also been diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder and having health issues like Sleep Apnea/Narcolepsy. The doctor suggested therapy sessions and recommended that I take some drugs that can put my mind at ease. I am very skeptical about the therapies and did not take any drugs that the doctor prescribed due to negative implications.

Between, my ability to focus and be attentive is pretty good when there's no one around in the office, or if I am working from a library etc. So what I am ending up doing is a full 9-10 hours of unattentive work (spaced-out literally), then spending 4 hours in a library after work or a late night at a coffee shop and getting things done. Due to this my sleep has affected totally. I do not smoke, drink or take any form of drugs. Taking Vitamin D and Aleeve pills everyday, and pretty active during the weekends and exercise at least 3 times a week. I sometimes believe I am alive just because of some of these positive habits.

Needless to say, I also have major issues speaking in a meeting or communicating to a wider group. Generally, good with 1x1 meetings.

I have lost some respect because of my inability to focus. I always feel tensed and anxious. I almost always keep hearing what people around me are talking. After an hour or so, I get completely spaced-out and sometimes cannot even move my limbs. For the records, I "used to be" a key performer.

I need some help dealing with this situation. How can I cut the office noise around me, people speaking, or me thinking that people are going to harm me. Literally, I feel I am in a survival, defensive mood all through the day.

Should I tell my clients, and managers that I have health issues and anxiety disorder or take a health sabbatical?

Any suggestions welcome!

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    I am very skeptical about the therapies If you don't believe your doctors, why would you believe the strangers on the Internet? – scaaahu Jun 9 '17 at 2:45
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    Maybe it's time to take a step back from being a project lead and either do some remote work or become a consultant. – Snowlockk Jun 9 '17 at 9:09
  • @scaaahu - I have never been to a therapist ever. I read a lot of reviews and a majority of people who have been to the therapy sessions state that it is ineffective and say it's expensive in the amount of time & $. I also read that they give some kind of "sedatives" which have side effects. – oneworld Jun 10 '17 at 0:02

Anxiety disorders as everything with DSM-5 is usually a combination of emotional and chemical disruption in ones normal abilities to function. The stigma surrounding brain injury/malfunction versus other body part injury/malfunctions is appalling and frankly keeps a lot of people from getting the help they actually need. The large majority of people who suffer are not severe cases and a little medication to stabilize brain chemistry as well as help processing and working through emotions is a very healthy course of action. I would say most people need this and often self medicate through talking to people close to them and drinking/smoking/finding some other addiction to "cope" with emotional trauma and stressful situations.

In fact I would say that everyone on earth could benefit by talking to a "good" therapist to help them work through emotions and develop into a more mature/healthy individual.

That being said, it's your choice to seek help and find what will help you balance out to a state you "feel normal" instead of anxious all the time. I would recommend you find a way to healthily find some balance in your life as it totally sucks to be anxious 24/7.

As far as the office goes, as I stated in the first paragraph, there is much more paranoia over mental situations than if you break a leg or even have cancer. The brain is an organ as well and there are plenty of people that need some minor chemical tweaks and/or therapy to help them function in what is viewed as a "normal spectrum". However, due to the fear factor these conditions cause I personally would recommend you seek help in getting yourself healthy and avoid disclosing any specifics to your co-workers/bosses.

I would recommend you use the phrase personal situation or doctor visit. You can use the specific symptoms of trouble sleeping or sleep apnea as well other physically manifesting symptoms. This lets everyone know you have some medical challenges, but at the same time keeps the "mental illness" stigma out of the way. Everyone involved is more comfortable with this. Sleep especially is something everyone understands and has a huge impact on focus in the work place.

The next thing to follow up with is letting them know you are getting help to get it under control so they don't have to worry about anything. Your boss you might want to disclose a little more about "the doctor wants me to try a couple medications to see if it helps me to get the rest I need". Emotional rest from anxiety and physical rest are related and this is not lying, but it's totally different sounding than "I just can't calm down and feel like I'm totally freaking out in the office each day until I get peace and quiet so the doctor gave me some meds to help me calm down". Naturally the first conveys a sense of "it's under control and I'll keep you posted" while the second says "you may want to notify security to monitor this person as they seem ready to blow". I wish you the best.

Way to go being bold enough to post this on a public forum!

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I need some help dealing with this situation. How can I cut the office noise around me, people speaking, or me thinking that people are going to harm me. Literally, I feel I am in a survival, defensive mood all through the day.

Typical symptoms of depression and sleep problems include all of the above.

The thoughts that people will harm you are mostly anxiety related, but will be greatly aggravated by poor sleep.

You can do absolutely nothing about noise or people in the office. The only thing you can change is yourself. And qualified medical help is the best course of action to do that.

I have little doubt (not least because I've had PTSD for over ten years), that your doctors first priority will be to get you sleeping regularly and well. Typical and reasonable treatments are mild, low to moderate dose anti-depressants but they may do something else to focus on the anxiety.

I'd strongly recommend, from your comments and as someone who has been there, that you take some medication that your doctors prescribe. Seek a second medical opinion if you have worries, but from what you describe you need to open yourself up to the need for, at least, short term medication.

Taking Vitamin D and Aleeve pills everyday

Just to flag this as worrying. Aleeve pills are, if I understand it, painkillers. Unless you have an ongoing health issue that causes serious pain (not the odd ache) then I'd worry you're abusing painkillers to compensate for your real problems (a not uncommon behavior).

To put this in perspective for you I also have arthritic knees and that does generate some pain every day (and all day). I generally do not take any painkillers. I'd suggest you void painkillers unless you've been advised to take them by a doctor or it's an exception - e.g. one day a month or maybe week. Painkillers can cause other medical problems if used for extended periods without medical need.

If you're suffering headaches, and I'd expect that if you're not sleeping, all those aches and pains will probably go away if you deal with the sleep issue.

So again I'd recommend take whatever medical treatment is offered from qualified people who have reviewed and examined you.

In case you have not, you must inform your doctors that you are taking painkillers like these every day.

I am very skeptical about the therapies and did not take any drugs that the doctor prescribed due to negative implications.

Well, I'd reconsider those choices. I appreciate and respect that you may not want to be on these drugs long term, (I didn't), but in the short term it's part of a necessary treatment to stabilize you and get you functioning better.

Therapy may help. It's not a guaranteed cure, but you need to give it a try. Maybe this won't be the right time for it, but keep an open mind.

Should I tell my clients, and managers that I have health issues and anxiety disorder or take a health sabbatical?

Not your clients. Never them.

I'd suggest that you discuss telling your employers (perhaps HR) with your doctors. They will be better able to gauge your needs that I would and would be more familiar with your circumstances.

Likewise your doctors can advise on whether a sabbatical is advisable.

From my own experience I think you'd find that while the anxiety symptoms are hard to shake (therapy can help with strategies to deal with that), dealing with the sleep issue would be of enormous and relatively quick help to you.

So first and foremost find a way to deal with that by consulting with the medics and respect their opinions.

Defer decisions about talking to your employers about this until you have first addressed the sleep issue to some extent and feel more rested.

If they start to ask you about your performance, I'd suggest you say that you have some health issues and it's early days with the doctors. This will tell them you're aware of the issue and addressing it as best you can. Be open to the possibility of moving to a position (if possible) with less responsibility if they suggest it.

You may indeed have to make changes to your life, but do not rush into anything with work.

I can only hope that you are able to take and benefit from the medical help you are offered and I offer you my best wishes in this regard.

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