Is Anxiety A Disability? Does Anxiety Qualify For Disability Benefits?

Published on: June 28, 2023

More than 40 million Americans suffer from excessive anxiety. For many of those people, anxiety occurs unexpectedly and is unrelated to the circumstances or events in which the person finds themselves. In severe cases, people suffering from anxiety disorders have their lives disrupted to a degree that makes it hard for them to function normally.

The answer to the question posed in this blog post’s title, “Is Anxiety a Disability?” is Yes.

But for anxiety to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, the condition must cause the person to be so impaired that they cannot continue to meet life’s daily challenges or hold steady employment. This blog post explains how to determine if your anxiety is severe enough to qualify for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you have any questions about your own impairment or the disability of your family member, contact Disability Experts of Florida. We are a national disability law firm. We concentrate our entire practice on Social Security Disability law. We helped thousands of disabled individuals understand their right to SSD or SSI benefits, and we fight to get you the benefits to which you are entitled. Let Disability Experts of Florida help you get your disability benefits. (Call Now: 855-777-0455)

Anxiety Does Fit Social Security’s Definition of a “Disability”

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines disability in very specific terms. You need to understand that both the federal government’s Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income programs only apply to long-term disabilities lasting longer than one year. There are important distinctions between the two disability programs (described below). Still, they both share the same language when defining what kind of illness, injury, or condition can qualify for benefits.

For purposes of SSD or SSI benefits, a disability is defined as follows:

A disability is a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that lasts or is expected to last 12 months (or result in death) and prevents the person from performing Substantial Gainful Activities (referred to as SGAs).

What Is a Substantial Gainful Activity?

A “substantial gainful activity” is some job or employment through which a person can earn more than $1,470 per month if they are not blind. Blind claimants must not be able to earn more than $2,460.

Evidence Required for Anxiety to Qualify as a Disability

The key factor in determining if your anxiety is severe enough to qualify you for SSD or SSI disability benefits is your ability to earn an income higher than the income eligibility cap. Millions of Americans suffer from some degree of anxiety.

Cases that Social Security will recognize as qualifying for disability benefits are those with a substantial and lengthy record of treatment with little or no steady improvement. These cases will demonstrate a history of severe impairment that interferes with the claimant’s daily living functions.

Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) that are most likely to be accepted as a basis for receiving disability benefits display three or more of these symptoms:

  • restlessness
  • easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • sleep disturbance

If panic disorder or agoraphobia are present in your case, then there should be reliable medical reports of these experiences:

  • panic attacks followed by a persistent worry about more panic attacks or their consequences
  • excessive fear or anxiety about at least two different situations. (Examples: using public transportation, being in a crowd, being in a line, being outside of your home, being in open spaces, etc.)

For people who suffer from OCD, Social Security looks for medical reports of “involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts, or repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.

You should always consult with an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer before either submitting or dismissing a claim for SSD or SSI benefits. The rules have many exceptions that only experts know about.

You may be eligible for disability benefits despite not having one of the above symptoms.

How Do You Know If Your Anxiety Disorder Is Severe Enough for Disability Benefits?

The Social Security Administration uses several factors when assessing a disability benefits claim.

One of the determining factors in judging the severity of anxiety or other mental impairments is whether it is “serious and persistent.” This is actually a term of art in psychology, but the Social Security Administration defines serious and persistent as one having “a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of 2 years, and medical treatment is ongoing, and the claimant has a marginal ability to adjust to changes that are not part of their daily life.

Even if you don’t fit the “serious and persistent” description, your anxiety can be judged to be severe if it presents “an extreme limitation of 1 or a marked limitation of 2 of the following” areas of your life:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating or being able to persist or maintain pace at work
  • Adapting or managing yourself




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