Students with
Psychological Disorders

at Florida Atlantic University

An Informational Brochure from the
Office for Students with Disabilities
Division of Student Affairs



A psychological disorder is defined as any persistent emotional or mental illness that substantially diminishes educational, social or vocational functioning, as reported by a mental health professional and based on a diagnosis from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is a classification system of diagnoses and symptomatology for psychological disorders. Some disorders included in the DSM are agoraphobia, bipolar disorder, major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.


People who have been diagnosed with a psychological disorder may experience symptoms such as changes in observable behavior, perception, thought processes, emotional states and/or energy level. Although diagnosed with a psychological disorder, an individual’s functioning may be extremely variable relative to medication, stress or factors associated with the disorder.


A person may experience symptoms of illness, but it may not be observable to others. One may also mistake a person as being abrupt, absent minded and/or “odd,” when in fact the person is exhibiting symptoms of a psychological disorder. Many of these disorders are treated with medication and/or counseling, which can help to maintain a “normal” range of functioning.


Attitudinal barriers can have a direct impact on providing services to students with psychological disorders. Stereotypical beliefs and sensationalized events contribute to an increased bias against individuals with psychological disorders. While  some  believe people with psychological disorders are dangerous, research has determined that they do not commit more crimes or act more violently than the general population.


Some well known individuals with psychological disorders include:

  • Mike Wallace – TV commentator
  • Jackson Pollack – Artist
  • Winston Churchill – Prime Minister
  • Sir Isaac Newton – Scientist
  • Charles Dickens – Author
  • Patty Duke – Actress
  • Lawton Chiles – Governor


  • Contributions that are highly creative
  • Difficulty with time management and organization (e.g., performing multiple tasks, meeting deadlines, prioritizing assignments)
  • Complications in filtering out external stimuli which can affect one’s concentration and performance
  • Limited communication skills
  • Difficulty reading social cues, which can lead to an intensified sense of anxiety when participating in class
  • Difficulty establishing and/or maintaining appropriate relationships with faculty, staff and peers
  • Inconsistency in attendance due to effects of disorder itself or side effects of medication
  • Possible discomfort engaging in group work/activities

These functional limitations may appear more pronounced at a given time due to the cyclical nature of some psychological disorders.



  • Provide a detailed course syllabus with clear explanation of course expectations and adhere to it as closely as possible
  • Be empathetic when a student is expressing concerns related to her/his disorder and its impact on academics
  • Have a flexible approach to students’ needs while maintaining consistent standards and/or expectations
  • Consult with and refer to other support services on campus when unsure how to handle a situation (e.g., OSD, Counseling and Psychological Services, Dean of Student Affairs)
  • Be aware that periods of academic instability may be related to the student’s disorder
  • Take into consideration that you may not know a student’s thoughts, feelings and reasons for a behavior



Counseling services are available free of charge through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to all registered FAU students. Services include individual counseling, couples counseling (your significant other need not be a student), family counseling, stress management, time management and medication management.

CAPS on Boca Raton campus: SS.229 (561.297.3540)

CAPS on Davie campus: SD 206e (954.236.1210)

CAPS on Jupiter campus: SR 110 (561.799.8635)



To be eligible for academic accommodations at Florida Atlantic University, a student must apply for services from the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). Academic accommodations are determined based on self-report of the disability and effective prior accommodations; observation and interaction with OSD counselor, as well as disability documentation submitted by the student. The documentation must be in the form of a psychological report, psychiatric report or comprehensive doctor’s letter from a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker or other practitioner qualified to make the diagnosis. The documentation must state a specific DSM diagnosis and should include anticipated effects of the student’s functional limitations within the academic setting as well as suggestions for accommodating the student.

The evaluation must have been conducted within the last two years; however, the OSD reserves the right to make modifications to this time frame.



After a student has submitted an Application for Support Services and appropriate documentation of a disability to the OSD, the student will meet with an OSD counselor for an intake interview. During the intake, the student will be asked to provide information about her or his experience of disability, barriers he or she has encountered, as well as effective and ineffective prior accommodations. Appropriate accommodations are then determined based on an interactive process between the student and OSD counselor.

The student may be eligible for one or more of the following accommodations:

  • Advocacy
  • Professor notification
  • Audio recording of classes
  • Breaks as needed
  • Exam adaptations (e.g., extended time to take exams, distraction-reduced setting)
  • Excused absences (Students who miss a reasonable number of classes due to medical necessity will not be penalized for missed classes as long as assignments and tests are completed in a timely manner.)
  • Time management, study skills and social skills training

These accommodations are necessary for ensuring complete access to, and full participation in, the educational process. Academic standards are not to be lowered, nor should there be an alteration in the essential nature of the course or degree requirements.

For more information:

National Institute of Mental Health


Note: Professors will be notified of the student’s approved accommodations in an OSD Letter of Notification presented by the student. If the student is not registered with the OSD, please refer her or him to the office.

 Last Modified 8/27/15