Social anxiety and other anxiety disorders are socially limiting, and at worst can make it impossible to function in normal relationships or employment. An anxiety disorder is a mental illness in which intense feelings of worry and fear influence daily behavior. Many people experience stress and anxiety in their daily lives, but an anxiety disorder can be a debilitating mental condition in which extreme feelings of worry and fear consume an individual’s everyday thoughts and behavior.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) may determine you eligible for disability benefits if you can provide medical evidence of a diagnosed anxiety disorder that limits your ability to work for 12 or more months. If you meet the SSA criteria, you may be entitled for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits depending on your income and employment history.
Requirement of Specific Medical Evidence
Your psychiatrist or psychologist may have diagnosed you with a general anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (recurrent thoughts about a traumatic experience in the past), obsessive-compulsive disorder (finding it necessary to perform activities repeatedly), panic disorder (having a strong physical reaction even though there is no immediate danger), or agoraphobia (fear of or avoidance of public places).
The SSA will likely want to review all psychiatric tests and examinations relevant to the diagnosis of anxiety, as well as any treatment reports from your doctor that indicate you have been regularly reporting anxiety symptoms.
Ensure that your medical records describe the full range of symptoms experienced as a result of your anxiety. What would you do, for example, if you were at work and had a panic attack? Do your symptoms force you to miss work on a recurring basis? Do you self-isolate and avoid others regularly?
Do you suffer in silence, unable to complete work-related tasks because your memory and concentration are so affected by your condition?
You should seek medical advice from your doctor about your anxiety and its causes. You should discuss with your doctor how the anxiety disorder affects your ability to function and perform routine daily activities. If possible, obtain a letter from previous employers or colleagues about job absences and performance due to anxiety symptoms.
Qualifying Anxiety Disorders
It is possible to receive SSA disability benefits for mental health disorders, but the first step is to obtain the correct diagnosis of your anxiety disorder. Your doctor will be asked to submit medical evidence of your condition, including psychiatric testing and documentation of related physical and mental symptoms. Anxiety disorders that may qualify you for disability benefits include:
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Generalized persistent anxiety
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Is Anxiety Considered a Disability?
To establish entitlement to benefits, you must have a qualifying disability listed on your application. The SSA will evaluate your listed impairment based on the criteria of a disability listing in the Social Security Listing of Impairments. Anxiety-related psychiatric illnesses are covered in Listing 12.06.
You should have a diagnosis of anxiety related disorders from a licensed medical practitioner, characterized by three or more of the following symptoms:
- Easily fatigued;
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Muscle tension; or
- Sleep disturbance.
You must also prove that symptoms affect your ability to maintain gainful employment. In addition, medical documentation should demonstrate limitations in the following areas of mental functioning:
- Understanding, remembering, or applying information
- Interacting with others
- Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
- Adapting or managing oneself
Many who have been living in a highly structured or secure environment or receiving intensive therapy or psychosocial support that has reduced the effects of their anxiety disorder are held to a different standard. According to the Social Security Administration, a person’s functional skills would likely appear higher in these circumstances than in real-life situations where the stress and demands of everyday life would be greater.
If the condition has been medically recorded as severe and chronic for at least two years, and you can demonstrate that you have been living in a highly structured setting or undergoing regular medical care. In that case, you might be eligible for disability for anxiety disorders if you can also demonstrate that you have minimal capacity to respond to changes in your environment or demands that are not already part of your everyday life. Older adults should never apply without going through eligibility criteria for disability Over 50.
Identifying the Residual Functional Capacity
If the Social Security Administration determines that your anxiety condition is not severe enough to satisfy criteria in listing 12.06, you may still be determined entitled to benefits based on your residual functional capacity (RFC). In that case, the SSA will examine the available medical documentation and may order additional testing to determine what restrictions you have on your ability to function in a worklike setting.
You may have the following RFC: an inability to perform complicated tasks but the ability to achieve short and easy tasks that can be mastered in 30 days or less, no public interaction, and only casual contact with colleagues and superiors. If so, you may be eligible for disability benefits from SSA.
Getting a Disability Claim Started
If you cannot function due to an anxiety disorder, you could be eligible for SSI for anxiety benefits. Although disability due to an anxiety disorder can be difficult to prove due to the subjective nature of the diagnosis, working closely with a medical practitioner and a trained Social Security disability attorney or advocate to gather and present the necessary documentation in support of your disability claim can help you present a complete and accurate disability benefits application. Your application should include a thorough analysis of what an episode of anxiety (whether it is a panic attack, OCD, PTSD, or phobic episodes) looks like for you, as well as how often you experience them and how they affect your ability to function.
Disability insurance providers have a high level of skepticism when it comes to mental health, or anxiety claims specifically. Claims adjusters will often thoroughly examine medical records to find ways to refute the allegation. This is why someone who has been diagnosed with anxiety or depression should consult with a lawyer.
You can apply for both Social Security disability insurance (SSDI, which requires you to have paid enough taxes into Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is based on income. Hire a lawyer to help you file a disability benefits for anxiety claim or, if your original claim has already been denied, to file an appeal. The bottomline is that you do not need to suffer from economic insecurity if you have an anxiety disorder or a physical disability that prevents you from performing at an optimum level. Contact us today.