Serious anxiety disorders make it difficult or impossible for people to perform everyday tasks. They elicit a range of stressful symptoms. Such problems may be associated with previous trauma. Military combat, airplane crashes, violent crimes and animal attacks trigger many disorders. Others have no specific cause. Some Americans with anxiety disorders qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
People with anxiety disorders frequently experience stress and feel uneasy. They might sweat, shake or become nauseous. This can lead to panic, fear and nightmares. Muscles may become tense as well. Some people always feel anxious; others suffer anxiety when they encounter certain situations, places or things. Symptoms might also appear when an individual tries to avoid obsessive or compulsive behavior.
A severe anxiety disorder may make a person unwilling to go outdoors. Such disorders can also prevent people from shopping, bathing, working or performing other essential tasks. Many individuals cope with mild anxiety disorders by avoiding stressful situations and minimizing social interaction. However, some people have disorders that make it impossible for them to survive without government assistance.
Determining Eligibility for Anxiety Disorders
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, an anxiety disorder must persist for at least one year. It is also necessary to document various symptoms and limitations created by the disorder. The government requires that beneficiaries have general anxiety, severe phobias, weekly panic attacks, compulsive behavior, flashbacks or obsessions. An individual with general anxiety must exhibit at least three major symptoms. The qualifying symptoms include muscle tension, autonomic hyperactivity, vigilant behavior and apprehension.
A person with these symptoms will only qualify for assistance if the anxiety disorder strongly restricts his or her ability to live independently. It must interfere with social interaction, normal daily activities or concentration and speed. If it only creates limitations in one of these areas, a person may remain eligible if the disorder periodically worsens and affects daily function. An individual will also qualify if the anxiety disorder prevents him or her from leaving the home.
It’s important to recognize that the Social Security Administration defines “daily activities” in a basic sense. The government is unlikely to grant disability benefits to a person who can’t drive a car or speak to large groups of people due to anxiety. If they cannot overcome these obstacles, such individuals may need to relocate or find less demanding jobs. However, a person might qualify for assistance if he or she cannot cross streets, talk to co-workers or go shopping.
Although the government has established very specific guidelines, mental disorders remain more challenging to diagnose and confirm than physical illnesses. It often proves difficult to determine if someone exhibits all of the symptoms and limitations needed to qualify for disability benefits. Doctors, disability lawyers and Social Security staff can help people find out if they are eligible. To minimize waiting time, it is vital to fully document all symptoms and apply for benefits as soon as possible.