Eastern Michigan University

Psychological Disorders

Psychological disorders are mental or behavioral patterns that may cause significant impairment or distress in several aspects of a student's life, such as school, relationships, career, etc. Some of the more common psychological disorders registered with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) include:

  • Depressive Disorders- such as Major Depressive Disorder and Dysthymia, characterized by:
    • depressed mood
    • loss of interest or pleasure
    • significant change in appetite
    • inability to sleep or excessive sleep
    • suicidal thoughts
    • fatigue
    • low self-esteem
    • low energy
    • poor concentration
    • difficulty in making decisions
    • feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxiety Disorders- such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which may exhibit the following:
    • excessive worry
    • difficulty concentrating
    • distressing dreams/flashbacks
    • repetitive behaviors/acts
    • may be caused by traumatic events such as war or rape
    • fear
    • muscle tension
    • fatigue
    • restlessness
    • irritability
    • panic attacks
    • sleep disturbances
    • hypervigilance
  • Bipolar Disorders- Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cycothymic Disorder, characterized by a manic/hypomanic episode which may alternate and/or co-occur with a depressive episode. Manic/hypomanic episodes are distinct periods that may display:
    • inflated self-esteem/grandiosity
    • decreased need for sleep
    • increase in goal-oriented behavior
    • increased participation in pleasure-seeking activities with probable negative consequences
    • talkativeness
    • racing thoughts
    • distractibility
Students with Psychological Disorders may also exhibit or experience the following:
  • More than one co-existing psychological disorder (i.e., student may be diagnosed with both anxiety and depression)
  • Symptoms that ebb and flow or occur sporadically (i.e., a student with Bipolar Disorder may vacillate between manic and depressive episodes or a student with Panic Disorder may only experience panic attacks when in a stressful situation)
  • Reluctance to share the diagnosis due to stigma. The student may fear that others will think differently about him or her.
Impact of the Environment on the Disability

Students with Psychological Disabilities will likely perform best in courses that incorporate the following elements, which may also benefit other students:

  • Notes provided in advance of class
  • Flexibility with attendance policy and assignment deadlines if the student experiences symptoms from his or her disability. Students may experience cyclical or periodic symptoms and request flexibility some days and not others.
  • Flexible environment where students are supported to take breaks as needed
  • More than one format of assessing students' knowledge of course content: examinations, in-class participation, presentations, homework, papers, projects, etc
  • Classroom and testing environment that minimizes distractions and recognizes that all students process information differently, some requiring more or less time
  • Presentations - ability to present to a small group or one-on-one, webcast, videotape, read with back to the class, alternate assignment (if presentation is not fundamental to class), etc.

When the environment and the disability are not compatible, students with Psychological Disorders commonly receive any or all of the following accommodations:

  • Extended test time and/or distraction-free testing
  • Instructor's consideration of flexibility with attendance policy and ability to make up assignments due to the debilitating and/or inconsistent patterns of certain disorders. Contact the DRC for guidelines regarding this accommodation.
  • Note-taker and/or permission to tape record if poor concentration is present
  • Ability to take classroom breaks

Since conditions may be episodic, the DRC encourages the student to present accommodation letters to faculty at the beginning of the semester. If you have questions about how to provide accommodations or regarding the scope of your responsibilities, please contact the DRC. Additionally, when a student registers with the DRC, a referral may also be made for counseling.

Sources and Additional Information
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