Psychological Disability

I. Definition

No area of disability is more misunderstood or negatively stereotyped than mental illness, so it is important to address teaching concerns against a background of up-to-date and accurate information.  To this end, it may be useful to be aware of the two classifications of psychological disabilities.

Biologically based brain disorders:  This includes depressive illnesses, anxiety disorders, and thought disorders.  Students with these conditions usually have the active support of mental health professionals, use medications, and are receiving regular therapy.  Increasing numbers of students with these disorders are attending college, encouraged and sponsored by state-funded mental health programs.  Medications have eliminated or substantially modified symptoms such as erratic behavior or inappropriate emotional expression, which, in the past, provoked anxiety and avoidance in others.  The most common symptoms today are apparent apathy (sedation) or inattentiveness (mild agitation).  It is important not to misinterpret a student’s motivations or alertness based solely on appearance.

Sociological or environmental conditions:  These stem from problems such as alcohol and substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, poverty and crime, and traumatic life-adjustment issues.  Students with these types of disabilities may or may not be undergoing treatment such as therapy or medication.  Those who identify themselves should be referred to appropriate college personnel.

Background Information

If disruptive behaviors persist or a code of conduct is violated, this should not be dealt with as a health issue.  It should be dealt with as a disciplinary issue and will be handled by the appropriate office dealing with such matters.  Students actively engaging in the use of illegal drugs or alcohol are not considered disabled and are not protected under applicable disability laws.

Students with psychiatric disabilities may not be comfortable disclosing the specifics of their disability.  Instructors can help these students by providing an understanding and accepting environment in the classroom, which will encourage them to request the accommodations they need to succeed.

If a student does disclose, be willing to discuss how the disability affects him or her academically and what accommodations would be helpful.  Drowsiness, fatigue, memory loss, and decreased response time may result from prescription medications.

II. Possible Accommodations

Classroom Environment


In class work / homework



If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the Office of Disability Services



Our Mission

Marquette University's Office of Disability Services is dedicated to providing equal access within the classroom setting, through the determination of appropriate accommodations, for students with documented disabilities. ODS promotes accessibility awareness through collaboration with campus partners, the development of student self-advocacy, and through consultation with the broader community. Guided by the university's mission, we strive to support the Marquette community in their efforts to educate all students on campus.