Anxiety Disorders and Disability

Anxiety Disorders and Disability
By Kimberly BishopMay 28, 2013

If you are unable to work due to your health, read on for information on obtaining Social Security Disability benefits for anxiety disorders. The Bishop Law Firm represents disability clients in North Carolina and has done so since 2009. Call us for your free case review or start online now!

Types of Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is based on the credits from the work you have done in your life. You must be found disabled before your date last insured (DLI) to be found eligible for SSDI. Your DLI is calculated by counting your “quarters of coverage” from your earnings record. You must have 20 “quarters of coverage” of the last 40 quarters. Simply put, you must have worked 5 years of the last ten years (in general). In addition, Adult Disabled Children can be eligible for benefits off their parent’s account.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a need-based program and you must meet income/asset standards in addition to being found disabled under the five steps above. In 2023, SSI is $914.00 per month for an individual and $1,371 for an eligible couple. SSI will be reduced by 1/3 if you are receiving financial help from others. In NC, SSI recipients are also entitled to Medicaid.

SSI is also available for disabled children and is evaluated under a different standard than adults. Children must have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or impairments (including emotional or learning problems) which result in marked and severe functional limitations, and the impairment(s) has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months or be expected to result in death.

Child SSI terminates when the child turns 18. The claimant will then have to reapply and be evaluated under the above adult sequential evaluation.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Please note that even though the below disorders are discussed separately, it is common for many of them to co-occur and compound resulting in severe anxiety This can complicate treatment, unfortunately.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder:

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder causes repetitive thoughts and behavior including, but not limited to, constant checking, fear of deviation from routine; and excessive doubt with need for constant reassurance. Found here. I have seen cases where individuals are unable to leave home due to the need to check and recheck the locks in their home. The ability to leave home is the first requirement in being able to work.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is triggered by a traumatic  event. Flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance of thoughts about the event are all common symptoms. Found here. Military personnel who have seen combat can experience PTSD, but anyone who has experienced trauma (rape, assault, etc.) can also experience symptoms of PTSD. Loud noises, confrontation, stress and anything that reminds one of the trauma can cause PTSD symptoms.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is excessive worrying about everyday life with no obvious reason for worrying. Found here. Unfortunately, in life, there are many things to worry about. Clients that suffer from GAD have a difficult time controlling their worry. A build up of this worry can result in an anxiety attack.

Panic Disorder:

Sudden attacks of panic or fear for no obvious reason. Panic attacks are frequently unexpected (Via The Mayo Clinic). My clients have described this as sweating, heart racing and unexplainable incapacitating fear while they are simply eating their breakfast.

Agoraphobia (and other phobias):

Agoraphobia is usually associated with panic disorder. You may avoid being in public situations due to the overwhelming anxiety that you experience. Clients report difficulty leaving home, being around strangers and sometimes even being around their own family.  Also read Disability Benefits for Agoraphobia.

Social Anxiety Disorder:

Fear of being watched or judged by others can affect one's life in terrible ways. "Others" can extend from people you see in public, your co-workers and even to your own family. Healthy relationships are important to general well-being. Unfortunately, in some clients with social anxiety disorder, they become home bound. Via NIH

Also read Social Security Disability Conditions

Social Security Disability for Anxiety Disorders

The first step in attaining Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income for your anxiety disorder is to seek appropriate medical treatment. If you are applying for disability due to a mental health disorder, you need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, a therapist and take medication.

Often times, seeking treatment from a general practitioner is inadequate to prove disability. SSA wants to see that you are seeking specialist care for your mental health condition (also read: Do I have to go to a psychiatrist for Social Security Disability?)

If your anxiety disorder does not improve despite following medical advice, applying for Social Security Disability is your next step. You can apply online or at your local SSA office.

The Social Security Administration evaluates anxiety disorders under Listing 12.06, Anxiety Related Disorders:

12.06 Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  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.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


  1. 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 (see 12.00G2b); 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 (see 12.00G2c).

Listing 12.06 requires medical records demonstrating symptoms AND limitations from those symptoms. Difficulties using information, interacting with others, maintaining concentration and managing your daily life can all impact your ability to work (or even completing chores around your home).

Is it hard to get disability for anxiety?

In our experience, it can be difficult to win a claim for disability benefits for anxiety disorders, but we find that the best evidence is your effort. Obtaining ongoing medical treatment, taking all your medicine, engaging in therapy and seeking ways to try to alleviate your anxiety symptoms is persuasive evidence to the Social Security Administration that you are doing all you can to get back to work and you just can't do it.

SSA Disability Hearing Questions for Clients with Anxiety Disorders

In my disability clients with anxiety disorders, the below questions are usually discussed during a SSA hearing (also read NC Social Security Disability Lawyer for a overview of the disability process):

  1. Have you ever been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for your anxiety disorder? Voluntary or involuntary? When?
  2. What type of medical treatment have you sought for your anxiety disorder?
  3. Did therapy help? If so, how?
  4. Did medication help? If so, how?
  5. Have you tried any additional ways to control your anxiety (controlled breathing, meditation, support groups)?
  6. What type of symptoms do you still have despite following your doctor's advice?
  7. What makes your symptoms better/worse?
  8. How often do you leave home? Do you have problems leaving home? What happens when you try to leave home?
  9. How do you get along with people? Strangers or people you know?
  10. Are you married/divorced? Divorced recently? How are your other family relationships?
  11. Do you know what your anxiety "triggers" are? If unknown, when do you usually experience anxiety or panic attacks?

North Carolina Social Security Disability Lawyer

If you are following your doctor's advice for your anxiety disorder but do not improve, you need to file a claim for Social Security Disability as soon as possible and call The Bishop Law Firm today. We have represented Social Security Disability clients since 2009 and do not get paid unless you win. Start your free case review online now!

The Bishop Law Firm represents Social Security Disability clients in RaleighDurhamFayettevilleCary, Rocky MountWilsonSmithfieldLouisburgChapel HillRoanoke Rapids , Winston SalemGarner, GreensboroGreenville and surrounding areas in North Carolina. Call us today for a free case review, (919) 615-3095. 

Also read NC Social Security Disability Lawyer

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