Is Anxiety A Disability? Does Anxiety Qualify For Disability Benefits?

Anxiety, stress, fear, and worry may be signs of an anxiety disorder. However, they also could be normal reactions to everyday situations that are a part of daily life. Concerns about an upcoming job interview or worrying about where to get money to repair your cause stress or anxiety.

Occasionally feeling anxious or stressed can be a normal part of life. However, when anxiety lingers and does not go away, it could be an anxiety disorder, a common form of mental illness affecting millions of people in the United States.

Anxiety disorders are recognized as a disability by the Social Security Administration. If persistent anxiety symptoms prevent you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

The process to qualify for disability benefits is not easy, so the Clauson Law Firm put together this comprehensive article. It explains how to when is anxiety a disability, and how you can qualify for disability benefits. Of course, a disability lawyer at Clauson Law is always available to answer questions, help you apply for benefits, or challenge a denial of a claim.

Does Anxiety Qualify For Disability Benefits?

If you have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, you may qualify for disability benefits through SSDI and SSI depends on a couple of factors. The types of symptoms you have, their severity, and whether you meet the medical and nonmedical eligibility criteria will determine whether you qualify for disability benefits.

To qualify for SSI, you must have little or no income and limited resources available for food, shelter, and other necessities. Resources cannot exceed $2,000 for an individual or $3,000 for couples with both parties eligible for benefits.

The nonmedical requirements to qualify for SSDI are quite different. You need a work history at jobs or through self-employment long enough and recent enough to meet the nonmedical criteria for SSDI. You also must have contributed to the Social Security system by paying Social Security taxes on the money you earned from working.

The Social Security Administration’s definition of a disability is the same for adults applying for SSI disability and for SSDI applicants. You must have a medical condition you can prove with medical records that causes a medical or mental health impairment expected to last for a minimum of 12 months or result in death. The impairment or impairments must be severe and prevent you from working. 

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Fear, worry, and other emotional responses to situations you encounter in life can be perfectly normal reactions. An anxiety disorder is when the responses are persistent and long-term rather than temporary or short-lived.

Mental health professionals recognize the existence of different types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias

Normal day-to-day worries become signs of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD when they become persistent and continue for at least six months. GAD symptoms may include the following:

  • Restlessness and feeling on-edge
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches, headaches, or pains of unknown origin
  • Uncontrollable worrying
  • Inability to fall asleep or remain asleep

Symptoms, which can differ from person to person, may interfere with daily activities and prevent a person from working.

Panic disorder causes a person to have frequent panic attacks. A panic attack is an unexpected period of fear and discomfort that may include feelings of losing control. Panic attacks may occur without any distinguishable trigger or sign of danger.

Panic attacks may cause a person to experience any of the following mental and physical symptoms:

  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Tingling or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling impending doom
  • Feeling a loss of control

Panic disorders can be disabling not only because of the attacks. The worry and fear of not knowing when the next attack will happen frequently causes a person to avoid contact with people, places, and situations they believe may trigger an attack.

Phobia disorders involve intense fear of things that pose little or no threat to a person. Phobias include a fear of specific situations or things, such as a fear of flying or a fear of injections.

Some phobias cause a person to fear social situations and may cause them to avoid contact with other people, which can make it difficult for them to function in a work environment. Agoraphobia is a phobia disorder where a person intensely fears everyday situations, including the use of public transportation, crowds, enclosed spaces, or being outside their home.

How Is Anxiety Diagnosed, And Can It Be Treated?

If you believe you have an anxiety disorder, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Doctors usually begin the process of diagnosing anxiety disorders by asking you to describe your symptoms, followed by a physical examination and blood tests.

The results of the examination and blood tests help your doctor rule out medical conditions other than anxiety disorders that may be responsible for the symptoms you’re experiencing. If you do not have a medical condition or take medical that could cause your symptoms, your doctor may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for a psychological evaluation.

A psychological evaluation can identify other mental health conditions that may be present with anxiety disorder, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After the evaluation, your doctor will discuss the diagnosis with you and recommend a course of treatment.

Psychotherapy and medication are the primary treatments for anxiety disorders. Your doctor may recommend a combination of prescribed medications to control the severity of your symptoms and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy or counseling helps you to understand and manage the disorder and your emotional response to it.

Is Anxiety A Disability?

If anxiety disorder symptoms prevent you from working, you can qualify for disability benefits through the SSDI and SSI programs. For example, a person with a fear of being in confined spaces or someone afraid of riding in a motor vehicle may be unable to work if the job they perform requires them to be in a truck or car or confined spaces.

Qualifying for Social Security disability benefits with anxiety disorder can be challenging. Over two-thirds of applications submitted each year are denied benefits after the initial review. That’s why it’s essential to have medical records with an anxiety disorder diagnosis and be under the care of a doctor to support and strengthen your claim for SSI and SSDI.

How Does Anxiety Qualify For Disability Benefits?

When you submit an application for disability benefits through SSDI or SSI, it’s reviewed by the Social Security Administration to determine that you meet the nonmedical requirements for eligibility, a work history for SSDI, or limited income and resources for SSI. Applications meeting the nonmedical criteria then go to the Disability Determination Services (DDS), state agencies that review the applications to determine whether the claimant is disabled.

Social Security maintains a listing of physical and mental conditions severe enough to meet standards for examiners to conclude that a claimant is disabled. The listings, commonly referred to as the “Blue Book,” include anxiety disorders.

Each listed condition includes the medical criteria for examiners to look for in an applicant’s medical documentation. It also includes functional criteria that examiners use to determine how a person’s mental disorder limits mental functioning within a work setting. In other words, does the condition prevent you from performing your regular work activities?

Section 12.06 of the Blue Book contains the listing for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders for adults with three subparagraphs, A through C, of eligibility requirements. You must satisfy the requirements of A and B, or A and C of Section 12.06, to be considered disabled because of an anxiety disorder, according to the listing.

What Happens If You Do Not Meet The Listing Criteria For Anxiety Disorders?

It’s not uncommon for someone with anxiety to be unable to match all of the criteria of the anxiety listing. You may be able to qualify for disability benefits with medical evidence proving that your anxiety disorder is functionally equivalent to another listed disorder. For example, if your symptoms match section 12.08 for personality and impulse-control disorders, section 12.04 for depressive disorders, or criteria for another listed condition.

If you cannot match or equal a listed disorder, you may wonder: Is anxiety a disability? There is another step in the disability determination process for applications with mental health conditions that do not match or equal a Blue Book condition. The DDS reviews your medical documentation to determine your residual functional capacity.

Residual functional capacity (RFC) is defined under federal regulations as the work activities you can do with the limitations imposed by your medical condition. For someone with anxiety disorders, the focus of the review may be on your ability to concentrate and pay attention, understand, remember, and follow instructions; work and interact with other people; and cope with changes in the work environment.

Get Help From An Outstanding Disability Lawyer

If an anxiety disorder interferes with your ability to work and earn a living, let an experienced disability lawyer from the Clauson Law Firm fight for the disability benefits you need and deserve. Whether you have questions about the application process and how to qualify for disability benefits or need a gifted disability lawyer to appeal a claim denial, our disability professionals are ready to help. Contact Clauson Law today for a free consultation and claim evaluation.

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Clauson Law has focused on representing the injured and disabled for over 10 years. We have handled thousands of cases. Each client is important to us and has a unique situation.

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