If you’re diagnosed with an anxiety or panic disorder, the odds are good that you have all the symptoms that are necessary to meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of the disorder — but qualifying for disability benefits isn’t quite that simple.
The SSA sets forth the elements that have to be proven in order to consider an anxiety disorder severe enough to be disabling in its “Listing of Impairments.” Aside from the symptoms of anxiety, panic or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you also have to demonstrate one of two things:
Your ability to function mentally is impaired
Anxiety disorders aren’t all alike. If your anxiety is mild, you may still manage to function fairly well in most settings. If your anxiety disorder is extreme, it may prevent you from easily understanding information, impair your memory and concentration, and affect the way that you interact with other people. It can also affect how well you are able to adapt to changes.
If you can show that you have an extreme limitation in one of these areas (or a severe limitation in two of them), your anxiety disorder may qualify as disabling.
Your anxiety is considered persistent and serious.
The longer you have suffered from an anxiety disorder — and the better your documentation of that disorder — the higher your odds of being approved for disability benefits.
One of the ways that you can qualify is by showing that your anxiety has affected you in a serious way for 2 years or longer through evidence of your attempts to get treatment for the disorder, including therapy. You also have to show that you have little ability to adjust to upsets in your routine or environment or cope with new stressors.
These additional requirements — beyond your actual diagnosis and the description of your symptoms — are what makes it so important to get good documentation of your struggle with anxiety. If you’re struggling to gain approval for Social Security Disability (SSD) due to your anxiety, make sure that your physician or therapist is documenting everything you say about how your condition actually affects your life.