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Disability Benefits for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are mental illnesses characterized by feelings of fear, worry and anxiousness that can be overwhelming and continuous. Anxiety disorders are often severe enough to interfere with one’s daily activities as well as their ability to work. When an individual with an anxiety disorder can no longer maintain employment because of their condition, he or she can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.

About Anxiety Disorders

As stated above, anxiety disorders are a category of mental disorders defined by feelings of anxiousness, tension and uneasiness. Anxiety is a normal emotion everyone can feel at times. People might feel anxious about a conflict with friends or family, before arriving to an important test or interview, or making a life-altering decision. These feelings of anxiety are temporary and are a normal part of life; however an individual with an anxiety disorder is different. The feelings and symptoms of anxiety are much more intense and don’t go away with time. The symptoms of an anxiety disorder include but are not limited to:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension
  • Racing heart
  • Shakiness
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Feelings of fear and panic
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Unable to be still and calm

Roughly 18% of Americans struggle with one of the types of anxiety disorders. Medical professionals believe that anxiety disorders are partly genetic but can also result from drug and/or alcohol abuse. Anxiety disorders or related symptoms can also result from other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are a few different types of anxiety disorders that are recognized by medical professionals. Even though each type has its own characteristics, they are all considered to be symptoms of anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This is the most common type and is characterized by non-specific persistent anxiousness and concern with everyday matters.
Panic Disorder – This type is characterized by brief attacks of terror and fear that occur frequently with no warning. Symptoms during an attack include trembling, chest pain and sweating.
Social Anxiety Disorder – Also known as social phobia, is characterized by extreme fear and avoidance of social interactions to prevent public embarrassment and humiliation.
Specific Phobias – These types of anxiety disorders are characterized by an intense, irrational fear of an object or situation such as spiders or heights.

Qualifying for Disability with an Anxiety Disorder

Successfully becoming approved for either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with just an anxiety disorder is rather challenging. This is because mental disorders are difficult to prove and can be controlled with medication or psychotherapy. Most individuals who receive disability benefits for an anxiety disorder also have other conditions such as clinical depression or bipolar disorder.

Chapter 12 of the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book lists all of the requirements needed for an anxiety disorder to qualify for disability benefits. Section 12.06 Anxiety-related Disorders deals with all conditions in which anxiety is the predominant disturbance. An applicant’s anxiety disorder must satisfy the required levels of severity for either requirements A and B or requirements A and C.

Requirement A

Applicant needs medical documentation of at least one of the following:

1.) Persistent anxiety with 3 out of the 4 following symptoms:

  • Motor tension
  • Autonomic hyperactivity
  • Apprehensive expectation
  • Vigilance and scanning


2.) A persistent irrational fear of an object or situation that causes a strong desire to avoid the object or situation.


3.) Reoccurring severe panic attacks manifested by unpredictable feelings of anxiousness that occur on average at least once a week.


4.) Consistent obsessions or compulsions that cause marked distress.


5.) Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience that cause marked distress.
Requirement B

Applicant needs medical documentation of at least two of the following:

1.) Marked restriction of activities of daily living
2.) Difficulties in maintaining social functioning
3.) Difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace
4.) Repeated episodes of decompensation of extended length
Requirement C

Applicant needs medical documentation that shows they are completely unable to function independently anywhere outside the area of his or her home.

Mental Residual Functional Capacity

Proving to the Social Security Administration that an individual’s symptoms of an anxiety disorder are severe enough to prevent from working any job (skilled or unskilled) in the United States can be troublesome. One of the preferred ways to show the SSA that an applicant is unable to work due to their condition is to have his or her treating doctor complete a mental residual functional capacity form. Submitting the form with the initial application can significantly increase one’s chances for approval.

The mental residual functional capacity form addresses an individual’s ability to cognitively function in a work environment despite his or her disability. If an applicant is deemed to be able to perform unskilled work (jobs that require little to no training or education), he or she will not qualify for disability benefits due to lack of severity.