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What is a trauma- and stressor-related disorder?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2020 | Social Security Disability

Since 2017, the Social Security Administration has recognized trauma- and stressor-related disorders as serious disabilities. Individuals unable to perform their job functions because of the debilitating effects of conditions such as PTSD may apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. 

As described by WebMD, PTSD is a “serious mental condition” an individual develops after experiencing or witnessing an extremely traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD may include persistent thoughts, anxiety or fears that do not disappear after the occurrence. The SSA estimates that about 8% of the U.S. population develops a trauma-related disorder at some point in their lives. 

Some individuals may suffer from symptoms for several years. Because of other similar mental health conditions, professionals could mistake PTSD as depression or anxiety. Without proper treatment, individuals may continue to experience symptoms or avoid normal activities that remind them of the original trauma. 

How is PTSD debilitating? 

Individuals who do not receive proper treatment for PTSD may develop issues with the way the brain processes certain fear and response triggers that activate a “fight-or-flight” reaction. When the body finds itself confronted with a perceived threat, adrenaline or other stress hormones begin flowing. 

Adrenaline prepares an individual to run from or fight the threat while his or her heart rate also increases and the brain switches itself into “danger” mode. Although this is a defensive mechanism that protects the body, the perceived threat may actually be harmless. An individual with PTSD may not interpret the circumstances correctly and experience disorientation, pain, anxiety and disassociation. 

How is PTSD a disability? 

The SSA categorizes a disability as a mental or physical condition that impairs an individual from performing any gainful activities for at least one year. There is no permanent cure for PTSD, and most individuals may suffer from its debilitating symptoms for the rest of their lives. 

According to the SSA, other disorders occur simultaneously with PTSD such as anxiety or substance abuse disorders. Any of these serious conditions may prohibit an individual from working and performing his or her job tasks successfully.