Agoraphobia can be, at its worst, a debilitating problem. Being unable to be outside of your home because your mind assails you with panic at the very thought can make it difficult to do just about anything. Worse yet, those who don't suffer from it often have a hard time understanding how it impacts you and your life.
You may be able to handle working from home, but those jobs are few and far between. You might have asked at some point, can I qualify for disability because of my agoraphobia? In short, the answer is yes, you can get disability for agoraphobia. However, qualifying for disability with agoraphobia can be difficult.
What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia itself is classically known as the “fear of public places.” The meaning of the phrase in the classical Greek is “fear of the marketplace,” which reinforces that belief.
However, current research shows that the prevailing theory about agoraphobia is that it is directly related to panic attacks and anxiety disorders, namely that the fear is not about the public place so much as it is the fear of the panic attacks those public places can induce.
That’s a big difference, as far as the Social Security Administration (SSA) is concerned. A fear can be overcome with classical conditioning and exposure—and that’s great. However, when the fear is about a disabling condition—which is, itself, a perfectly natural response—then it becomes something far different. The fear of suffering a panic attack in a public place combines two problems: the inability to go where other people are because of the condition and the actual fear of suffering from the condition.
A panic attack is a terrifying feeling. First time sufferers often call 911 because they think that they’re having a heart attack. Suffering from one can result in someone fighting if contained and frantically attempting to leave the area where they experienced the panic attack. Doctors have found that panic attacks are caused by the sympathetic nervous system, making it a physical disorder rather than a purely mental one.
Qualifying for Disability
Now comes the important part: both panic attacks and agoraphobia are classified in the SSA Blue Book under anxiety disorders. This is a good thing for you because that means there is a certain set of criteria for you to meet to qualify.
The criteria is quite simple, but the feelings that the condition causes aren’t. To meet the SSA’s guidelines regarding agoraphobia, you must have medically documented findings of at least one of the symptoms of Column A and also fufill the requirements of Column B or C. (All of the terminology is taken from the SSA's Blue Book.) They are:
A. Panic Disorder or Agoraphobia, Characterized by One or Both of:
- Panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences; or
- Disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations (for example, using public transportation, being in a crowd, being in a line, being outside of your home, being in open spaces).
- Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
- Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
- Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
- Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
- Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).
- Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
- Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
- Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).
These conditions seem extensive, and they are. However, if you do meet the previously mentioned requirements, then you should give us a call. We can help you through the application process and help you secure your disability income. We’re here to help you!