Individuals suffering with anxiety disorders often run into challenging situations regarding disability claims, as diagnosis can be difficult. 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 may prevent an individual from performing daily activities.
Anxiety disorders take many forms. One patient might have difficulty concentrating or experience overwhelming panic when faced with a challenge. Another might feel the need to avoid certain places or situations, which may compromise their ability to socialize or go to work or attend school.
Every person suffering from anxiety disorder has a different experience, but common symptoms include muscle tension, increased levels of worry or concern, dry mouth, feeling nauseous or faint, and sweating. Symptoms are sometimes associated with a previous trauma such as a violent crime, military combat, or a serious car crash, other symptoms seem to have no specific cause.
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. While some individuals only suffer anxiety when they encounter certain situations, things, or places, other people 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, and nightmares, as well as physical manifestations that include profuse sweating, nausea, and uncontrolled shaking.
Individuals with mild anxiety cope by minimizing social interaction and avoiding situations they perceive as stressful. 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, from general apprehension and nervousness to severe phobias – the applicant must prove functional impairment from a legal perspective. The question that must be answered in the affirmative 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” – referring to deterioration in work-like settings.
A Diagnosis of Functional Impairment
Establishing a diagnosis of functional impairment can be the difference between winning and losing your case. The Social Security Administration accepts the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which was first published in 1994, to help prove a diagnosis of anxiety. In addition to two functional impairments, the applicant must show at least three clinical signs, as described in the DSM, such as irritability, insomnia, worry, tiredness, difficulty focusing, or sharp startle reflex.
Someone who will not leave their home or another type of restricted setting, even without other clinical signs, may not have to meet the functional impairment criteria. It is also helpful to gather information from sources other than 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 Knowledgeable Disability Attorney near San Francisco
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. For more information or to book your free consultation, we invite you to 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.