What to Say to Doctor to Get Signed Off Work With Stress? (A guide)

In this brief guide, we will discuss what to say to a doctor to get signed off work with stress.

What to Say to a Doctor to Get Signed Off Work With Stress? 

Not knowing what to say to a doctor to get signed off work due to stress may lead to more stress, as has been seen in many people with stress and anxiety, and generally describing the symptoms of stress you are experiencing to the doctor may be enough to get you signed off work.

Stress may be caused by your workplace or other reasons, and according to the Center for Disease Control, “Mental health disorders are among the most burdensome health concerns in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 US adults aged 18 or older (18.3% or 44.7 million people) reported any mental illness in 2016.2 In addition, 71% of adults reported at least one symptom of stress, such as a headache or feeling overwhelmed or anxious.”

Work stress can also be triggered owing to unhealthy work relationships and unnecessary leg-pulling by colleagues. You know when you are being squeezed out at work and how stressful such situations can get in real life.

To say something to a doctor to get signed off work with stress you need to first recognize time off and that you need to figure out some way to get off work, which you may understand better below.

How do you know you need to get signed off work with stress?

While quitting your job owing to excessive work stress might seem tempting, you know you need to get signed off work with stress when you start feeling that your productivity is starting to get affected by the stress and you start feeling like you don’t want to go to work anymore.

In trying to ascertain when you need to get signed off work with stress, you may also benefit from knowing the signs and symptoms of stress, which according to WebMD are:


  • “Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others”


  • “Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth”


  • “Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side”


  • “Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
  • Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail-biting, fidgeting, and pacing”

In addition, WebMD also talks about the consequences of stress, which is likely to happen if you decide to power through it and don’t get signed off work when you need to, and these consequences may look something like this:

  • “Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon”

What causes stress at work?

There are many things that may cause stress at work, including but not limited to worry about productivity, putting in long hours, tension related to not being able to deliver and suffering the consequences, and a need to function at your absolute best in order to meet the bare minimum possible to sustain a decent lifestyle.

In addition to the regular things that one needs to worry about in terms of workplace-related stress, we are now dealing with one of the worst times in the economic and anthropological sense due to the ongoing lockdown, and many people have lost jobs or are working in strenuous and sometimes difficult conditions, which may lead to even more stress.

The direness of the situation is not lost on the government and policymakers, though, thankfully, and branches of the Department of Labor in the US are working towards ensuring the employees’ mental health, which may be seen reflected in a recent blog post by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), titled, “Coronavirus (COVID-19), Stress, and Mental Health Conditions,” where the writer explores the unknown effects of the ongoing lockdown and how it is going to affect those with caregiving duties as well as those with pre-existing mental health issues or stress.

Apart from the ongoing lockdown situation, there are other problems even in the best of times that may contribute to the stress associated with the workplace that may compel people to get signed off work, some of which are highlighted by the WHO:

  • “Inadequate health and safety policies;
  • Poor communication and management practices;
  • Limited participation in decision-making or low control over one’s area of work;
  • Low levels of support for employees;
  • Inflexible working hours; and
  • Unclear tasks or organizational objectives.”

The WHO also says that “Risks may also be related to job content, such as unsuitable tasks for the person’s competencies or a high and unrelenting workload. Some jobs may carry a higher personal risk than others (e.g. first responders and humanitarian workers)”. 

They report that people who are at such high risk for stress may even resort to psychoactive drugs or more forms of unhealthy coping mechanisms which may make the problem much worse.

Furthermore, says WHO, “Bullying and psychological harassment (also known as “mobbing”) are commonly reported causes of work-related stress by workers and present risks to the health of workers”, which may also become a huge reason to want to get signed off work.

What is Stress Leave and How can you Request it?

After understanding the problems stress poses one needs to know what stress leave is and how one may request it, which is quite simple, stress leave is simply a sabbatical or time off due to mental health issues, and one may request it by providing an adequate note from a doctor.

Stress leave is defined as an extended period of time for which an employee may get signed off work with stress-related illnesses or other kinds of injuries or traumas, and there are actually laws regarding stress like in the US, the FMLA or “Family Medical Leave Act,” according to which is a “guarantee certain employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss.”

Here are the steps you need to take to go about taking a stress leave:

  • Consult your doctor, tell them honestly that you are feeling negative and stressed out, and ask them if getting signed off work with stress will help.
  • Get the doctor’s note, and discuss the situation with your employer, and see if there is some way where your overall workload may be reduced or altered in some way
  • To take time off, write a letter for a leave of absence due to stress, attach your doctor’s note, and submit it.
  • Once you start your leave, make sure you seek the help you need so that you are able to get back to work eventually and don’t run the risk of burnout.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What can employers do to reduce the employees’ stress?

It is not just up to employees to look out for themselves, employers may also take some steps to reduce the number of people who need to get signed off work with stress, as highlighted by the CDC:

  • Make mental health self-assessment tools available to all employees.
  • Offer free or subsidized clinical screenings for depression from a qualified mental health professional, followed by directed feedback and clinical referral when appropriate.
  • Offer health insurance with no or low out-of-pocket costs for depression medications and mental health counseling.
  • Provide free or subsidized lifestyle coaching, counseling, or self-management programs.
  • Distribute materials, such as brochures, flyers, and videos, to all employees about the signs 
  • and symptoms of poor mental health and opportunities for treatment.
  • Host seminars or workshops that address depression and stress management techniques, like mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditation, to help employees reduce anxiety and stress and improve focus and motivation.
  • Create and maintain dedicated, quiet spaces for relaxation activities.
  • Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and depression in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals.
  • Give employees opportunities to participate in decisions about issues that affect job stress.

What will the doctor ask me when I need to get signed off work with stress?

To get you signed off work with stress the doctor may ask you a series of questions that are designed to understand what you are experiencing and if leaving work for a while will benefit you, because in some cases, being stripped of the routine of a job can make one feel untethered and drifting and make matters worse.

Here are some questions that a doctor may ask you before he signs off on you getting off work with stress:

  • Do you experience dread at the thought of work?
  • Do you find yourself experiencing more negative physical symptoms like stomach issues at work?
  • Do you find yourself constantly thinking about work when you are at home or in your leisure time?
  • Do you feel that your productivity has gone down?
  • How much time do you spend at work?
  • What line of work are you in?
  • Do you face any bullying, harassment or other adverse situations at work?
  • Do you work with a lot of deadlines?
  • Do you have any underlying major physical issues or lifestyle disorders like diabetes or hypertension?

There may be more questions depending on the other relevant points of your situation but these are generally the basic questions that the doctor may ask.


In this brief guide, we discussed what to say to a doctor to get signed off work with stress. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What to Say to a Doctor to Get Signed Off Work With Stress?

Will the doctor sign me off work with stress?

Yes, your doctor may sign you off work with stress if you are suffering from a significant level of stress, and they deem it necessary to take some time off work to deal with your stress.

While your doctor may sign you off work, however, the employer is not required to keep your job available for an indefinite period.

What do I tell my doctor to get stress leave?

Here is what you can tell your doctor to get stress leave:

Be honest and forthcoming about your symptoms.
Try to talk about your feelings openly and don’t leave things out because you are embarrassed or ashamed in any way.
Listen to the doctor’s advice about coping with the problem.
Go for follow-up appointments and seek the help you need.
Talk about your situation and especially the things that trigger your stress.

How long can I be signed off work with stress?

To know how long you can be signed off work with stress you should first check with your employer and the rules in your company, but in most cases after signing off work with stress for seven consecutive days, one may need to provide their employer with proof of work-related stress. 

This note can be obtained easily by telling your doctor what you are going through and having them write you an official document with their signature that you can submit at work.

Can I get a sick note for anxiety?

Yes, you can get a sick note for anxiety, as well as other mental health conditions like depression, and work-related stress.








Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!