Social Security Disability for Anxiety Disorder and a Physical Ailment

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While anxiety can interfere with your ability to work and complete day-to-day activities, proving anxiety alone qualifies you for SSDI can be challenging. At Schaffer & Associates LPA, we overcome this hurdle through strategic legal planning and fearless advocacy. By coupling anxiety with a physical ailment, we have achieved success for countless hardworking individuals across Ohio and Michigan. To discuss your next steps for obtaining disability for anxiety and physical symptoms, consider contacting our Toledo office at (419) 350-8277) or our Findlay office at (419) 359-8091 today.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety is a mental health impairment that causes feelings of dread, fear, and uneasiness. Individuals who have anxiety disorders may struggle with overwhelming feelings of apprehension or tension, which can worsen over time. Some of the most common symptoms that sufferers experience include: 

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Restlessness or the inability to sit still
  • Consistent headaches or other aches and pains of the body 
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Problems sleeping
  • Behavioral changes, such as avoiding hobbies and activities that you used to enjoy
  • Shortness of breath

While everyone can feel anxious from time to time, individuals with anxiety disorders often experience symptoms that are intense, excessive, and persistent. 

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

According to data from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 19% of the population. Certain anxiety disorders are more prevalent among women and, while these disorders are highly treatable, only 36% of those suffering seek treatment. When coupled with other conditions, such as physical ailments, the symptoms of anxiety can become even more debilitating. 

Does the Social Security Administration Provide Disability Benefits for Anxiety?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not often provide disability benefits solely for anxiety. Individuals are more likely to qualify for SSDI benefits if their anxiety results in ongoing and severe symptoms that interfere with their work and daily routine, and if accompanied by additional diagnoses. To successfully apply for and obtain disability for anxiety, you must meet certain criteria found in the SSA listing for anxiety disorders.

What Is the SSA Listing for Anxiety Disorders?

The SSA listing for anxiety disorders can be found in Section 12.06 of the Blue Book, which encompasses anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. This listing recognizes four different anxiety disorders, including: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder must demonstrate that they suffer from symptoms of restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance. 
  • Panic disorder or agoraphobia: If you suffer from panic attacks and/or disproportionate fear or anxiety about specific situations, you may suffer from panic disorder or agoraphobia.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Characterized by involuntary preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts and/or repetitive behaviors intended to reduce anxiety, OCD is a common anxiety disorder in the United States.  
  • Social anxiety disorder: Included in 12.00E2, social anxiety disorder is characterized by difficulty working with and relating to supervisors, coworkers, and the public.

It should be noted that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common anxiety disorder included within Section 12.00 Mental Disorders but is included in the listing for trauma- and stressor-related disorders. This listing is found in Section 12.15 of the Blue Book, and requires medical documentation of five key symptoms of PTSD.

What Evidence Is Required for an Anxiety Disorder?

To determine whether or not your anxiety disorder is disabling, the SSA will look to see that you have been receiving regular treatment for your anxiety. When applying for SSDI benefits, you will be asked to sign a release form that authorizes your doctors to send medical records to the SSA. These medical records need to contain the necessary evidence required to substantiate your anxiety disorder, including: 

  • Progress notes outlining that you have regularly reported signs and symptoms of anxiety
  • Mental health examinations showing abnormalities in thinking or recalling events
  • Details about the side effects and efficacy of any medications that you are currently taking

Is It Difficult to Get Disability for an Anxiety Disorder?

While anxiety is included in the SSA Bluebook, successfully obtaining disability for anxiety is often an uphill battle. Unfortunately, disability benefits for anxiety are often denied, primarily due to the subjective nature of these claims. Anxiety disorders often present as what some refer to as an “invisible illness”, which typically cannot be proven using visual-based medical imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, or ultrasounds. 

For this reason, claims examiners have to base their decisions on treatment notes from medical professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists and other therapists. If they disagree with your doctor’s assessment and determine that you are still able to work, they will deny your claim. At Schaffer & Associates LPA, we understand the complexities of anxiety disorder claims and compile all possible evidence to successfully prove the existence and the severity of the condition. Many times, we accomplish this by demonstrating that anxiety is co-occurring with a physical condition. 

What Are Common Physical Conditions to Have With Anxiety?

Living with chronic anxiety can cause stress on your body, particularly to your nervous, digestive, cardiovascular, and immune systems. This stress can have major consequences on your physical health, often leading to or worsening other physical ailments. Some of the most common physical conditions to have with anxiety include:

  • Digestive disorders including inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease
  • Chronic migraines
  • Insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease
  • Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Tinnitus 
  • Chronic pain

A physical condition does not have to be caused by anxiety to add to the combined effect your conditions have on your disability. If you suffer from any physical condition alongside anxiety, you may still qualify for disability benefits based on the combined effects of your impairments. 

What If You Have Anxiety and a Physical Ailment and Want to Apply for SSDI?

In reality, many applicants are prevented from working due to a combination of several different medical conditions. The SSA is required to evaluate your disability as a whole when determining your eligibility for benefits. This means that you are able to document the combined effects of major and minor impairments. 

It is possible to be approved for disability for anxiety and physical symptoms, as long as you:

  • Are unable to perform substantial, gainful activity for a year or more
  • Suffer from severe symptoms
  • Each of your impairments meets or is equal to a Blue Book listing

For instance, if you suffer from anxiety and chronic migraines, you may experience persistent pain and worry that severely limits your ability to work. To fully illustrate the extent of the limitations of each impairment, as well as their connection to one another, you must ensure the SSA receives all of your medical evidence from all treating providers. 

The SSA will then consider the combined effects of your conditions, the extent of your inability to work, and whether your impairments meet the requirements set forth in the Blue Book. If you are not approved for benefits based on the Blue Book listings, the SSA will evaluate your residual functional capacity to decide whether you can perform your past job activities in a new occupation. 

Hiring an Attorney Near You to Help You With Your SSD Claim for Anxiety and a Physical Condition

Every year, over 60% of initial SSDI claims are denied by the SSA. Hiring an experienced attorney with a track record of success—someone who understands this complex process—can make all the difference in the outcome of your claim. At Schaffer & Associates LPA, we are well-versed in navigating disability for anxiety and physical symptoms, exhausting all options to build the strongest SSD claim possible. To begin your free initial consultation with our team, consider contacting our Toledo office at (419) 350-8277) or our Findlay office at (419) 359-8091 today.