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Office of Disability Services

About Psychological Disabilities


What is a Psychological Disability?

Psychological disabilities include a range of disorders, including anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and schizophrenia. The most common of these, anxiety disorder, is characterized by fear or anxiety associated with particular objects and situations. Panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are forms of anxiety disorders. Depressive disorders are characterized by mood changes, usually involving either depression or mania (elation). With appropriate treatment, most people with depressive disorders improve substantially. Depression, bipolar, dysthymia and seasonal affective disorders are forms of depressive disorders. Schizophrenia is characterized by difficulty processing information. Symptoms include social isolation, loss of motivation, hallucinations, and delusions.


The unpredictable nature of psychiatric disabilities can make class attendance and academic success difficult to maintain. Psychiatric disabilities may interfere with thinking skills, judgment, short-term memory, processing of information, concentration, reading, writing, organization and study skills, motivation, and social skills.


Since many psychological disorders can be controlled with medication and/or therapy, a mental disorder may not be recognized as a disability unless it substantially limits a student's success in the academic environment.  To be eligible for accommodations, the documentation must support the ADA definition of a disability.  Appropriate accommodations are determined based upon the recommendations in the documentation of the disability provided to Disability Services. These may include priority registration, reduced course load, extended time for exams, proctored testing, note taking assistance, alternate text, and special housing.


Instructor Tips

  • Students who demonstrate signs of anxiety, depression, or other emotional problems should be referred to the Engle Center.
  • Instructors have the right to determine how flexible they may be on attendance for students who are dealing with psychological disabilities.  Occasional absences might be accommodated, but a student whose psychological condition leads to “excessive” absences (determined by the instructor) may be penalized for their absences. Only the instructor can determine when the number of absences has sufficiently reduced the student’s mastery of content that accommodation can no longer be made.

Student Tips

  • Seek help early and communicate with your professors often about any absences that you might have related to your disability.
  • Arrange testing and note taking accommodations as suggested by the Office of Disability Services.


Any further assistance or accommodations needed should be discussed with the Director of Disability Services.