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Can Anxiety Qualify You for Social Security Benefits?

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Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits are available for qualifying individuals who are either at least 62 years old or who suffer from a disability. Applicants often think that “disability” requires a physical impairment, such as blindness, deafness, or paralysis. The Social Security Administration (SSA), however, recognizes that mental health disorders can be equally debilitating. Workers should not limit themselves to the mindset that severe stress or anxiety is simply a normal feature of life, to be ignored regardless of how debilitating. If a mental health issue is sufficiently disabling, it may help an applicant qualify for SSD benefits. Read on for a discussion of when and how an anxiety disorder may qualify you for Social Security benefits. If you have any questions, or if you need assistance applying for disability benefits, call a seasoned California Social Security Disability benefits attorney today.

Disability Caused by Anxiety Disorders

Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder can prevent a person from being able to work, perform daily tasks, or even leave the house. They are well-documented, and mental health professionals recognize how debilitating they may be.

The SSA will grant benefits to otherwise qualifying applicants who suffer from severe anxiety disorders. In order to obtain benefits, an applicant must be able to demonstrate at a minimum that they have been diagnosed with a specific anxiety disorder (e.g., PTSD, OCD, phobias such as agoraphobia, panic attacks, or generalized anxiety) and that, as a result of that diagnosed condition, they have been unable to work for at least 12 months.

In addition to a specific diagnosis, an applicant must be able to demonstrate that their anxiety disorder causes severe limitations in one or more areas including:

  • Interacting with other people appropriately
  • Concentrating and being able to follow through on performing specific tasks
  • Remembering tasks or instructions, learning new things, and understanding instructions
  • Managing oneself (ability to cook, clean, perform daily chores, practice daily hygiene, and other facets of life)

An applicant may qualify for benefits even if they have been improving past these limitations with treatment, so long as they have suffered from a medically diagnosed anxiety disorder for at least two years and they could suffer a setback if they return to work. A seasoned disability attorney can help you apply for or retain your benefits based on your anxiety condition.

Specific Requirements Depending on Diagnosis

The SSA imposes specific requirements for obtaining benefits based on the exact disabling condition. According to the SSA’s listing for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, an applicant must satisfy either A and B or A and C of the following categories in order to qualify:

  1. Medical documentation demonstrating any of 1, 2, or 3:
    1. Anxiety disorder, characterized by at least three of the following symptoms:
      1. Restlessness
      2. Easily fatigued
      3. Difficulty concentrating
      4. Irritability
      5. Muscle tension; or
      6. Sleep disturbance
    2. Panic disorder or agoraphobia, characterized by one or both of:
      1. Panic attacks, or
      2. Disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations (e.g., being in a crowd or using public transportation)
    3. OCD, characterized by one or both of:
      1. Involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with unwanted thoughts
      2. Repetitive behaviors aimed to reduce anxiety
  2. Extreme limitation of at least one, or marked limitation of two, of the following:
    1. Understanding, applying or remembering information
    2. Ability to interact with others
    3. Concentration, persistence, or maintaining pace to complete tasks
    4. Ability to adapt or manage oneself
  3. Mental disorder listing of “serious and persistent” with a documented medical history of a disorder for at least two years, with evidence of both:
    1. Ongoing medical treatment that helps the symptoms; and
    2. Minimal capacity to make small adjustments to the applicant’s life or demands not already part of daily life

Proving a mental disability is complex and nuanced. An experienced Social Security Disability Insurance lawyer can help you through the process and ensure that you get the benefits you need.

Dedicated Assistance Collecting California Disability Benefits

For help obtaining disability benefits in southern California or statewide, call the knowledgeable and effective Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSD/SSI) attorneys Drake & Drake at 818-624-4695.

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