Talk to a top lawyer for free

Can you get disability for anxiety?

Wondering whether you can get disability for anxiety? We explain when you can get disability benefits for anxiety and what you have to show to qualify.

evident Editorial Team
November 27, 2023
man holding head, man in chair

If you've been grappling with anxiety or panic disorders that have made it difficult to maintain employment, you might wonder, "Can I get disability for anxiety?" The answer is yes.

In 2021, over a million workers received disability for anxiety or other mental health conditions. This article will delve into the nature of anxiety disorders, how you can get disability for anxiety, and the steps you should take if you believe you qualify for benefits.

Key Takeaways

Is Anxiety a Disability?

Yes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes anxiety as a disability. However, individuals with anxiety often face hurdles in demonstrating that their condition warrants monthly Social Security disability benefits.

SSA's Definition of Anxiety

The Social Security Administration defines anxiety disorders as conditions where individuals experience excessive worry, anxiety, or fear that impedes their daily activities. Due to their condition, they may also steer clear of certain thoughts, objects, places, or individuals.

Anxiety symptoms often include restlessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, easy fatigue, and persistent thoughts or fears about safety.

Common Anxiety Disorders

The SSA categorizes anxiety disorders alongside a few similar mental disorders. Some common types of anxiety recognized as disabilities by the SSA include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias (such as agoraphobia)

How Can You Get Disability for Anxiety?

You might wonder, "How can you get disability for anxiety?" Generally, you can receive disability for anxiety if your condition renders you incapable of working or managing daily life independently.

However, the SSA has stringent criteria for who can receive benefits due to anxiety or other mental health conditions. Regrettably, the SSA won't simply take your word for it that anxiety prevents you from maintaining a job.

You'll need medical evidence of your symptoms and their impact on your life. Your best option is to collaborate with a doctor (and possibly a disability lawyer) to accurately document your condition.

You may also find it easier to qualify for benefits if you can apply with multiple conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Requirements for Obtaining Disability for Anxiety Disorders

To obtain disability for anxiety orders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and others, you must provide proof of (1) an anxiety disorder and (2) demonstrate that your anxiety disorder severely restricts your mental capabilities or show that you have severe anxiety that has persisted for at least two years.

How to Prove Anxiety for Disability

So, is anxiety a disability? Yes, it is. But how do you prove you have anxiety to qualify for disability benefits?

If you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, proving it depends on the type of disorder:

  • Social anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder: you must provide medical proof that you experience at least three out of the following symptoms: restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, and fatigue. 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: you must experience either intrusive, unwanted thoughts or engage in repetitive behaviors to reduce anxiety. 
  • Phobias or panic disorder: you must experience regular panic attacks or significant fear and anxiety in at least two different situations (such as using public transportation, being in crowds, or waiting in a line). You may also worry persistently about additional panic attacks or their consequences.

Proving That Anxiety Has a Severe Impact on Your Cognitive Functions

The SSA takes into account four critical elements of your cognitive functions to assess the severity of your anxiety:

  1. Your capability to comprehend, retain or utilize information.
  2. Your aptitude to engage with others.
  3. Your capacity to focus and maintain a steady rhythm.
  4. Your proficiency in adapting to changes or self-regulating.

It's necessary to have medical documentation showing that your anxiety causes extreme restrictions in at least one domain or significant limitations in several. If you experience an extreme limitation, it implies you may struggle to function independently in that domain for a long period. In case of a marked limitation, your functioning capability is considerably hindered, but you can cope independently.

Demonstrating Your Anxiety as Serious and Persistent

To prove to the SSA that your anxiety disorder is "serious and persistent," your medical documents must illustrate three aspects:

  1. You have experienced anxiety for a minimum of two years.
  2. You are receiving ongoing medical assistance to control or mitigate your symptoms, which may encompass mental health therapy. The SSA also recognizes any support you receive to manage your daily life, such as assistance from family members, staying in a group home or transitional housing for round-the-clock care, or acquiring psychosocial support via a rehabilitation program.
  3. Even with proper care, you are generally or entirely incapable of adapting to new conditions or unexpected responsibilities not already part of your everyday life.

What If Your Anxiety Falls Short of the Disability Benefits Criteria?

Even if your anxiety doesn't fulfill the above criteria, you still have the option to apply for disability benefits. It's crucial to demonstrate that your anxiety disorder hinders your ability to work.

Getting approval for disability can be a tough task. It's common for initial applications to get rejected unless they strictly adhere to SSA's criteria. But this shouldn't discourage you.

Only a fraction of applicants (about 20%) receive approval in the first application. You can always file an appeal and provide new medical proof, thereby strengthening your case before a judge. At this level, your odds of approval are significantly higher (more than half the applicants).

Depression and Anxiety: What Disability Benefits Can You Receive?

The mean disability payout for anxiety and other mental health issues stands at $1,232.97. If your anxiety disorder qualifies for benefits, the SSDI maximum disability payment is $3,627 per month, and the SSI maximum is $914 per month in 2023.

The law sets these amounts, which remain consistent across all conditions. Even if you qualify under different disabilities or have multiple conditions, it doesn't escalate your benefits.

Your actual disability payout will depend on factors such as your employment history, other income, and the value of any assets you own. It's possible to qualify for both SSDI and SSI simultaneously.

Advice to Secure Disability Benefits with Anxiety

Here are some strategies to boost your chances of a successful claim:

  1. Understand the different kinds of disability insurance to determine your eligibility and the ideal time to apply.
  2. Collaborate closely with your healthcare provider to ensure your medical records are comprehensive and accurately represent your anxiety symptoms.
  3. Consult with a disability lawyer who has expertise in the application process and can guide you to enhance your success rate.

If you are considering hiring an SSDI lawyer, it may also be helpful to know that they work on a contingency basis, meaning no upfront costs for you.

What's the Next Step if Your Anxiety Qualifies for Disability Criteria?

If your anxiety fits the criteria, your next move is to apply for disability benefits. Make this move as soon as possible. Given the length of the process, any delay might postpone the receipt of potential benefits.

Understanding the type of disability benefits you're applying for is crucial. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is typically accessible if you've been employed for at least five of the previous ten years and are now unable to work, offering the highest disability benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is based on your income level. Thus, even with minimal employment history over the last ten years, you could qualify if your income is low or nonexistent.

Anxiety Disability FAQs

What kind of anxiety qualifies for disability?

Anxiety disorders that severely impact your daily functioning, including your ability to work, can qualify for disability. These might include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and others, provided they're supported by substantial medical evidence.

How much is disability for anxiety?

On average, disability benefits for anxiety amount to $1,232.97. However, the maximum disability payment for Social Security disability benefits (or SSDI) is $3,627 per month, while the maximum SSI payment is $914 per month in 2023.

Is anxiety legally a disability?

Yes, if anxiety significantly impairs your ability to function or work, it can be considered a disability under the relevant laws. However, the severity of the condition must be substantiated by medical documentation to be legally recognized as a disability.

Can I claim benefits for anxiety?

Yes, if your anxiety is severe enough to interfere with your ability to work or perform daily activities, you may be eligible for disability benefits. However, approval requires meeting specific criteria set by the SSA, including substantial medical evidence of your condition.

The Bottom Line

Living with anxiety can be challenging, and it can be even more difficult when it prevents you from working. However, understanding how the SSA views anxiety as a disability and what criteria you need to meet can help you navigate applying for disability benefits.

Remember, working closely with your doctor and possibly a lawyer is essential to ensure you have the best chance of success.