29th Mar 2023
Worrying about health, work, money, or family forms part of everyday life. Temporary anxiety can stem from stressful or traumatic events in one's life. But an anxiety disorder is something constant that may get worse over time. Anxiety disorders can interfere with relationships, job performance, and life in general. But can anxiety be classed as a disability?
People with GAD experience constant feelings of anxiety, dread or tension, not related to anything in particular, and which can persist for months or even years.
Symptoms can include:
A phobia is an overwhelming, intense and irrational fear of situations, places, objects or events. People with phobias are excessively anxious about encountering these situations, events, or objects and take steps to actively avoid them. Examples of simple or specific phobias are a fear of flying, heights or blood.
This disorder is characterized by panic attacks, unexpected episodes of extreme fear or discomfort, with no identifiable cause or danger. A person with panic disorder will have frequent attacks, and a persistent fear of losing control. They will avoid places or situations associated with these attacks.
Physical symptoms may include:
Involves an intense and recurring fear of being judged by others. People with social anxiety disorder might not be able to control their fear of social situations, which can affect work, school attendance or everyday social activities. Symptoms include:
People with OCD experience recurrent involuntary thoughts or impulses which they try to relieve through repetitive or ritualistic tasks. Rituals are often time-consuming and may involve checking or cleaning. For example, repetitively checking for their keys before leaving their home, or constantly washing their hands. These involuntary thoughts are usually related, but not limited, to violence, germs, religion, or sex.
Also referred to as PTSD, this disorder is a reaction to a traumatic event experienced or witnessed, such as natural disasters, episodes of violence or abuse. Symptoms include involuntarily re-living the experience through recurring flashbacks or dreams. People with PTSD will avoid situations or places that might remind them of the event or have increased reactivity or hypervigilance in certain situations.
It is normal to experience a certain level of anxiety in the workplace. For example, feelings of nervousness about a presentation or meeting, or fear of a project which is pushing you out of your comfort zone and its impending deadline. However, if you suffer from an anxiety disorder, these feelings of dread may be irrational, unexpected, and recurring, and can seriously affect your work-life and career.
According to the national survey on anxiety in the workplace, difficult situations at work which can trigger symptoms of anxiety disorder include dealing with problems and deadlines, maintaining personal relationships with colleagues and managing staff, making presentations or participating in meetings. Participants stated that their anxiety impacts their workplace performance, the quality of their work, and their relationships with coworkers and with their superiors. Four in ten participants agreed that anxiety formed part of their normal life.
Anxiety can affect your work performance and life in the following ways:
If your anxiety disorder seriously causes professional limitations in one or more areas, such as difficulties to function socially and interact with colleagues or superiors, manage basic tasks or routines, understand professional concepts or instructions, concentrating, or even leaving the house, there is a probability that you are eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.
However, you need to prove your symptoms are chronic, that they meet a specific medical diagnosis related to anxiety, and that they negatively impact your ability to have a normal work life. If they do, you need to provide proper evidence: a professional diagnosis and analysis of a mental health specialist.
To evaluate these claims, the Social Security Administration refers to the Blue Book listing of impairments, a guide which lists the disabilities that qualify for Social Security benefits. Anxiety disorders that can qualify are GAD, PTSD, OCD, panic disorder or some types of phobias, such as agoraphobia. Depending on your anxiety disorder, you need to fulfill specific requirements that prove your inability to perform even low-stress jobs.
If your disorder or the severity of your symptoms do not qualify for Social Security’s impairment listing, you might be eligible for disability benefits. Social Security will analyze your limitations in relation to your ability to work through your “residual functional capacity”, which indicates if you are able to perform skilled, semi-skilled, unskilled or less than unskilled work.
Getting disability benefits is a long and grueling process. Typically, you’ll have to prove you haven’t been able to work for 2 years. Also, once on disability you cannot have another income stream, so this should be a last course of action. People with anxiety disorders often see improvements in their condition if they go to therapy and take medication.
However, if after reading this article you think you have the right to social security benefits and you believe this is the best course of action to take, consider the following: