Anxiety and panic attacks can be debilitating. Not only can it impact your daily life, but it can sometimes make holding down a job next to impossible.
If you feel that anxiety is taking over your life to the point where you’re struggling financially, you may be wondering, “Does anxiety qualify for a disability grant?”
In this blog, we take a closer look at the different types of anxiety disorders and what criteria you need to meet to claim disability.
Anxiety is one of those hidden disabilities that can be a constant struggle, but with the right support and medication, it can be managed.
Anxiety can make even the most basic tasks much harder to complete due to mental and physical anguish, but it presents differently in everyone. Some of the most common signs of anxiety include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Inability to focus
When anxiety levels are too high, it generally leads to panic attacks, which leave you with an intense feeling of dread and the illusion that you’re dying.
Heightened anxiety can be brought on by stressful life situations and even irrational thoughts. No two people experience anxiety in the same way, and if left untreated, prolonged periods of increased stress can have far-reaching implications on your mental and physical health.
Understanding the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several types of anxiety disorders, with some people only having one and others more than one.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This anxiety disorder results in constant feelings of fear, worry, and overwhelm. Stressors could include relationships, health, finances, and even the future, and every day comes with different, overwhelming concerns.
Social anxiety disorder. Someone with social anxiety disorder will find social interactions particularly stressful. There’s no conclusive evidence about what causes this type of anxiety disorder either. It can range from brain chemistry and genetics to environmental factors.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD obsessions are persistent and repetitive thoughts or urges that can’t be controlled, resulting in distress and anxiety. Hoarding, asking for constant reassurance, or obsessively washing your hands are all potential signs of OCD.
Panic disorder. A person with a panic disorder struggles with frequent and unexpected panic attacks. It’s not always possible to predict what could cause a panic attack, which is a leading cause of daily anxiety. The irony is that this very anxiety can cause someone to panic to the point where they faint or vomit.
Phobias. This is one when someone has a very strong and specific fear of something. This could be the dark, spiders, water, or even leaving the house. When faced with a phobia or the thought of it, a person is immediately plunged into anxious thoughts and, sometimes, a panic attack.
An Anxiety Disorder vs. Being Anxious
Not everyone who experiences anxiety necessarily has an anxiety disorder – everyone gets a little anxious every now and then.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 31% of American adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. So, how can you tell whether you have an anxiety disorder or if you’re just going through a stressful period in your life?
First, you want to look at your anxiety response. Experiencing severe stress and anxiety when a major life change or life-altering situation occurs is completely normal. However, if you’re experiencing an overwhelming level of anxiety about something minor, it could indicate a disorder.
Next, there’s your day-to-day life. Can you still function and maintain your relationships when you’re anxious? If so, you can simply turn to calming practices, short-term medication, and healthier lifestyle choices to cope. If your anxiety is making it impossible to get out of bed most days, you may actually be dealing with a disorder.
Lastly, people with an anxiety disorder will experience heightened levels of stress and irrationality for most of the day, every day.
Is Anxiety Considered a Disability?
Now that we’ve covered some key points about anxiety and when it’s considered a disorder, let’s answer the question: “Is anxiety a mental disability?”
The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers anxiety to be a disability. The SSA defines anxiety disorders as excessive worry and fear that impact someone’s ability to go about their daily lives. Someone with an anxiety disorder will generally avoid certain places, objects, and people due to their condition. Insomnia, fatigue, restlessness, and a general inability to concentrate are experienced daily.
So, does anxiety qualify for a disability grant?
It does if your condition results in an inability to work and function normally in daily life. However, it should be noted that SSA criteria are strict when it comes to approving disability grants for anxiety disorders.
Verbally confirming you have an anxiety disorder is not enough to receive a grant. You will need medical proof from a doctor and, sometimes, a lawyer too.
Some of the criteria you will need to meet to potentially qualify for a disability grant for anxiety include:
Medical proof of your disorder. A medical professional would need to vouch for the fact that you’re regularly experiencing several of the most common symptoms associated with GAD. A time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive thoughts and regular panic attacks should also be noted.
Proof that the disorder limits your mental abilities. Examples include not remembering information, difficulties interacting with others, or an inability to concentrate.
Proof that the disorder has been present for at least two years. Lastly, you will need to prove that your anxiety is serious and a long-term condition. Providing proof of ongoing prescriptions for anxiety-related medications is one way to do this.
Is Anxiety Covered Under the ADA?
The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, which was passed in 2008, recognizes that mental conditions can be just as debilitating as physical conditions. For this reason, it also covers various psychological disorders, including anxiety.
However, as with some other mental disorders, it needs to be substantially limiting for it to be considered a disability. This means that basic daily tasks such as working, communicating, sleeping, and concentrating are more difficult than they should be.
If an anxiety disorder is covered by the ADA, the same protection that it affords people with cognitive and physical disabilities applies to people with anxiety. Inclusion becomes mandatory, which means employers and businesses cannot discriminate against you because you have a disability. An employer who limits your pay or denies you a raise due to your disability is violating the terms of the ADA.
Your workplace is also obligated to reasonably accommodate your anxiety disorder. This could include the option to work remotely or during flexible hours. Offering additional vacation days for mental health purposes is another way employers can better accommodate employees with anxiety disorders.
Perhaps you would benefit from regular check-ins with your supervisor to discuss any issues you might be encountering – this is also seen as a reasonable accommodation.
Living with an Anxiety Disorder
The fact that anxiety disorders are being taken more seriously is a testament to us building a more inclusive society. Thanks to acts such as the ADA and AODA, people who struggle with serious and debilitating anxiety can still lead fulfilling lives and earn an income.
If you believe you might have an anxiety disorder, start by scheduling an appointment with your general practitioner to discuss treatment options and the possibility of applying for a disability grant.
Anxiety Disorder FAQs
The ADA defines anxiety as a mental impairment that substantially limits your ability to engage in daily life activities or restricts major bodily functions. Even if you’re currently receiving treatment for the disorder, you may still be able to qualify for a disability grant.