Our mental health can have just as great of an impact on how we function as our physical health. Despite this fact, individuals suffering from anxiety disorders can have trouble getting their disability claim approved.
An anxiety disorder refers to a mental health condition where ordinary fear and normal worrying become elevated to the level of extreme stress and anxiety. Severe forms are disabling because they can prevent an individual from performing daily activities or even working.
Anxiety can take on many forms. One patient could have difficulty concentrating or experience overwhelming panic when faced with a challenge. Another might feel the need to avoid certain places or situations, which compromises their ability to socialize, work or attend classes.
Symptoms might vary from person to person, but some of the most common include muscle tension, increased levels of worry or concern, dry mouth, feeling nauseous or faint, and sweating.
Sometimes a previous trauma such as a violent crime, military combat, or a serious car crash can point to the cause of anxiety and its symptoms. In other cases, symptoms can happen at random and no cause is known.
When an Anxiety Disorder Becomes a Disability
People who suffer with anxiety disorders often feel uneasy and experience stress while engaged in normal day-to-day activities. Some only suffer anxiety when they encounter certain situations, things, or places, while others feel anxious all the time.
For individuals who suffer from OCD, symptoms may appear when they try to avoid obsessive or compulsive behavior. This can lead to fear, panic, nightmares, and physical manifestations such as sweating, nausea, and uncontrolled shaking.
Individuals with mild anxiety cope by minimizing social interaction and avoiding situations they perceive as stressful. In some cases, medication is used to try to alleviate symptoms, but does not always help.
Severe anxiety disorder can prevent people from working, shopping, going outside, or performing essential tasks like bathing. If the disorder is severe enough, it is impossible for the individual to work, making disability benefits essential for their survival.
Qualifying for Benefits
Some anxiety disorders may qualify the applicant for disability benefits. Depending where the severity of the condition appears on the spectrum of impairments, claimants must prove functional impairment from a legal perspective. The key question that must be answered when applying for SSD benefits is, “Does your impairment substantially interfere with your capacity and ability to work?”
To determine functional impairment for anxiety, at least two “marked” limitations in social function or activities of daily living must be present. Impairments are also examined based on “concentration, persistence, or pace,” and “episodes of decompensation.”
Measuring these levels of an individual’s impairment will also help determine how likely they would be able to work. Should their anxiety disorder be severe enough to prevent them from working, this key component will help an individual get approved for benefits.
A Diagnosis of Functional Impairment
Establishing a diagnosis of functional impairment can significantly impact the status of your case. The Social Security Administration accepts the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to help prove a diagnosis of anxiety. In addition to two functional impairments, the applicant must show at least three clinical signs from the DSM. Examples of these signs include irritability, insomnia, worry, tiredness, difficulty focusing, or sharp startle reflex.
Not being able to leave their home or another type of restricted setting, with the absence of clinical signs, can prevent an individual from meeting the functional impairment criteria for anxiety. It is also helpful to gather information from sources outside of medical professionals. Family members, friends, neighbors, and former colleagues may be able to help provide evidence of the longevity and severity of impairment.
Contact A Social Security Attorney In San Francisco, CA
If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety disorder and has not been able to work, it’s time to consult with a knowledgeable disability attorney near San Francisco. When you’re already struggling to perform daily tasks with a mental health disorder, applying for short or long term disability for depression and anxiety can seem impossible.
Let us handle all of the leg work for you while you focus on managing your health. For more information or to book your free consultation, please give us a call or fill out our contact form.
ADAA – Anxiety and Depression Association of America has educational resources and local resources for therapists in your area.
NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health has a dedicated section to anxiety, treatment plans and support.
SSA Mental Disorders Listing – Under the SSA’s disability section, this link explains the criteria for functional limitations for anxiety.