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Anxiety Disorders and qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance

Appealing for benefits is best done under the guidance of an experienced disability lawyer.

Is a person who is suffering with an anxiety disorder eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance?

Author Attorney Lloyd Bemis:

The answer is yes – and no. Though many people who have anxiety disorders apply for SSDI, most cases are not severe enough to qualify. The Social Security Administration is very specific as to how severe an anxiety disorder must be and has rigid requirements regarding how the disease is documented in order to meet those requirements.

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The SSA specifically defines anxiety-related disorders as potential reasons for a claimant to legitimately receive federal disability benefits. Call 512-454-4000 and get help today.

Anxiety disorders are recognized in Social Security’s Blue Book under Section 12.00 Mental Disorders which is divided into 11 categories including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and eating disorders.

Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders are listed under section 12.06 and are characterized by excessive worry, fear, apprehension, and avoidance of feelings, activities, places, people, and/or objects.

Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from an anxiety disorder. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!

A person with an anxiety disorder may experience any of the following symptoms:

  •   Restlessness
  •   difficulty concentrating
  •   muscle tension
  •   sleep disturbances
  •    panic attacks
  •   constant fears about safety
  •   obsessive behaviors

What specific anxiety disorders are considered impairments by the Social Security Administration?

  1.   Social Anxiety Disorder.
  2. This disorder is characterized by a fear of being judged, being perceived in a negative way, or rejected in social situations. A person may worry about appearing anxious and avoid social situations. When a social situation cannot be avoided, the person experiences extreme stress and anxiety.

  3.   Panic Disorder.
  4. An individual with panic disorder experiences sudden episodes of intense fear or a sense of impending danger. Physical symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, rapid heartbeat and trembling.

  5.   Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
  6. In this disorder, a person experiences uncontrollable recurring thoughts or behaviors they repeat over and over. Examples include an intense fear of germs manifesting in excessive hand washing or constantly rearranging objects in a particular order.

  7.   Generalized anxiety disorder.
  8. The individual worries about a variety of different things including money, family, health, work, and disasters, but the worry is out of proportion to the impact of the event. People with this anxiety disorder may perceive situations as life threatening when they are not, or be so worried about making a wrong decision that they become unable to make any decision.

It is difficult to claim SSDI under an anxiety disorder because medical evidence supporting this diagnosis is often very subjective.

Diagnosis is frequently based on feelings and behaviors that occur outside of a doctor’s office and reported by the patient to the doctor rather than diagnostic test results.

In order to qualify for SSDI, an applicant must satisfy stringent criteria specified by the Social Security Administration.

  1.   Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1, 2, or 3:
    1.   Anxiety disorder, characterized by three or more of the following;

      1.   Restlessness;
      2.   Easily fatigued;
      3.    Difficulty concentrating;
      4.   Irritability;
      5.   Muscle tension; or
      6.   Sleep disturbance.

    2.   Panic disorder or agoraphobia, characterized by one or both:

      1.    Panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences; or
      2.   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).

    3.   Obsessive-compulsive disorder, characterized by one or both:

      1.   Involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts; or
      2.   Repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.


  2.   Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning):
    1.    Understand, remember, or apply information.
    2.   Interact with others.
    3.   Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace.
    4.   Adapt or manage oneself.


  3.   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:
    1.   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; and
    2.   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.

First, an applicant must submit medical documentation confirming they have an anxiety disorder.

Social Security will then evaluate an applicant’s ability to function independently and on a consistent basis. You must have a documented medical history of the anxiety disorder over a two-year period, classifying the disorder as “serious and persistent.” You must provide evidence that you rely on medical treatment and therapy to manage symptoms and have limited ability to adapt to changes in your environment or new situations.

Social Security will review evidence provided by your healthcare providers describing your symptoms as well as results of any physical and mental exams.

Social Security will seek information from family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, employers and caregivers who are familiar with your symptoms and how you interact with others on a daily basis. The agency will also want to know your limitations in adapting to new situations or changes in your environment.

In order to qualify for SSDI, an anxiety disorder must be so overwhelming that functioning at school, in relationships, and at work becomes difficult and even impossible.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.

The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.

  1.   The Duration of Work test.   Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
  2.   The Current Work Test.   Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.

The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.

  1.   Are you working?   Your disability must be “total”.
  2.   Is your medical condition severe?    Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
  3.   Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?   The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
  4.   Can you do the work you did before?   SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
  5.   Can you do any other type of work?   If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.

More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.

Case Study

One of our Cedar Park client’s treating physicians certified him as having a class 4 psychological functioning impairment.

He was advised to stop working due to “incapacitating anxiety”. When asked whether our client could return to work, this physician responded “No . . . currently his anxiety and depression are incapacitating and his treatment is just beginning.” Another physician stated that he suffered from Major Depression; recurrent, severe, Panic disorder with agoraphobia; and Dysthymic disorder. Accordingly, he was unable to perform daily chores, attend social functions, attend to legal needs, shop, or venture into the community and manage everyday financial affairs. Our client’s severe depression/anxiety interfered with his concentration, energy, self-confidence, decision making ability, and even his ability to leave the house. MetLife denied his claim, stating that he was no longer receiving treatment for his disability. We appealed his denial and won a reinstatement of benefits.

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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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"Words can not truly express the gratitude that I feel toward Mr. Lonnie Roach and his professional team. I give them an A+++. Very compassionate and prompt. Their priorities are first and foremost helping you succeed at your case. When you feel helpless, feeling like someone is on your side can mean the world to you. Thank you for working for the people."
-Amy K.


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Attorney Lloyd BemisAuthor: Attorney Lloyd Bemis has been practicing law for over 35 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion Gold rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Bemis obtained dual board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lloyd is admitted to practice in the United States District Court – all Texas Districts and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Mr. Bemis is a member of the Travis County Bar Association. He has been active in the American Association for Justice and is a past Director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Bemis and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.

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