Many people consider themselves eligible for disability benefits every time they get affected by anxiety and stress.
But the law states that it is only when you experience serious symptoms of anxiety that inhibit your ability to function at home and work when you qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The SSA is a United States Federal Agency that administers social programs covering retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits. Formed in 1935, it administers all social insurance programs in the country under the Department of Human Services and has operated as an independent agency since 1994.
The benefits administered range from social security retirement income to disability income programs among others.
It is also oversees issuing of social security numbers, managing the program’s funds and administering benefits.
Depression and Anxiety
When it comes to depression and anxiety, it can get so disruptive that it can completely interfere with your day to day life and make it impossible to function.
When it gets to a level when you can’t work even when under anti-depressant’s, you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits under the SSA.
But your condition will have to be so thoroughly documented as well as seriously debilitating – it must completely affect your ability to function properly, concentrate and manage the tasks in your life.
And you will have been diagnosed by a competent mental practitioner who will have seen you for at least one year or your condition is expected to last for one year.
So to qualify for SSA disability benefits, your condition must be serious enough to meet the SSA criteria as set out in their listing requirements. Or your condition must be bad enough as to interfere with your functioning to the extent the SSA is in agreement that no jobs exists that you can do.
Some people experience feelings of worry and concern, a dry mouth, muscle tension, and even hyper vigilance. But these cannot be sufficient grounds to even consider launching a claim for disability benefits.
Duration and Level of Depression and Anxiety
The level and duration of your depression and anxiety must have lasted for at least one year and would be at a stage at which you would be unable to perform a task on a regular or consistent basis.
It is not the wish of the SSA to render you depressed every day of the month, but you need to demonstrate that your depression and anxiety symptoms occur frequently enough to prevent you from performing your duties effectively.
Quite often, psychologists would rather record in your medical treatment records during a particular visit that you are “feeling better” or “vastly improved” or simply just “commendable improvement.”
But the SSA can also use these records as a basis to deny you disability benefits.
To get disability for depression and anxiety, SSA demands medical evidence that you suffer from anxiety disorder and that due to this condition, you have not been able to work for at least 12 months.
Based on your current work history and income, a medical practitioner can advise that you to apply for Social Security Disability.
What Medical Evidence is Needed?
Your physician or psychologist may have diagnosed you with
- basic anxiety disorder,
- recurring thoughts about past painful events, (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- obsessive-compulsive disorder, having to repeat tasks over and over again,
- agoraphobia, the fear of public places or a
- panic disorder, getting terrified even when there is no actual danger.
The SSA may ask for evidence of any tests of written evaluations that highlight anxiety, and any medical notes by your psychologist showing that you have repeatedly reported symptoms of anxiety.
The SSA will also want to know what happens as a result of your anxiety. For instance during your normal duties at work and if you experience a panic attack, what happens next? Or what do you do next?
Locking Yourself in the Bathroom
Do you bolt out of your workplace? Do you lock yourself inside the bathroom? Or will you leave your workplace, isolate yourself, suffer in silence and become unable to finish your allocated tasks for the day due to difficulty with concentration and memory?
SSA may want you to obtain a medical opinion from your psychologist regarding the level of your anxiety ranging from mild, moderate to severe.
What are the causes of your anxiety? What is the effect of your anxiety disorder and how does it affect your ability to work?
If you have suffered panic attacks in your previous employment, if possible, try to obtain statements from your previous employer regarding your work absences as a result of anxiety symptoms.
How to Qualify for a Disability Listing
Once your psychologist diagnoses you and records evidence that meets SSA criteria for disability listing, the SSA will determine you disabled.
Their listing 12.06 is authorized to cover all anxiety-related mental disorders.
They will automatically grant you disability benefits if you demonstrate the symptoms and limitations listed in their official lists.
After considering your medical records from your psychologist including testing, status evaluations and any reports of hospitalization, they will require that you demonstrate signs of suffering at least five of the following symptoms:
- Lack of interest in almost all activities
- A depressed mood
- Lack of appetite or overeating resulting in a change in your weight
- Lack of sleep or oversleeping
- Difficult think or concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Slowing down of physical movements and reactions
- Unusually fast or frenzied speech
- Quickly changing thought patterns and ideas
- Inflated self-esteem with false beliefs
- Getting distracted easily
- An appetite for risky activities and behavior usually with painful consequences
- Increased physical agitation such as restlessness or appearing to be busy while in reality, you are not.
In addition to any of the five above, you must also demonstrate that it affects your ability to function.
Some people have a serious problem in the areas listed below:
- Remembering and understanding information. Capacity to grasp instructions. Learning new things. Application of judgment and making decisions.
- Mixing and interacting with other people. The ability to demonstrate socially acceptable behavior.
- Concentration and keeping up the pace in a work environment.
- Taking care of oneself or adapting to change. Having practical self-improvement skills and controlling behavior.
Telling SSA About Your Anxiety and Depression
The first thing you need to do is report to SSA if you’re currently seeing a psychologist for any mental treatment, including anxiety and depression. Even if your symptoms aren’t severe.
If you feel anxious and depressed and are not receiving treatment, it’s important to seek help right away.
SSA will also demand that you provide them with a complete list of the medications you’ve been taking for your anxiety and depression.
You should also tell SSA who provided the prescription, the dosages and whether or not you experienced any side effects.
You need to know that it’s more beneficial to your claim if you get treated for your clinical depression by a mental health professional than by your family doctor.
If you see a social worker, therapist, psychiatrist or psychologist, give their names and contact information to the SSA as well.
The SSA may also ask you to describe how your illnesses affect your daily life on a questionnaire called ADL, Activities of Daily Living.
Many people launching a disability claim do not complete the ADL in detail. The information asked is used in the disability process and is quoted frequently by the judge in a disability court.
So you need to explain all of this information regarding your depression and anxiety in your original questionnaire.
Many people suffering from depression and anxiety experience some symptoms of non-exertional impairments.
For extra information, see our article on how non-exertional impairments can assist you to win your claim.
When you’re suffering from depression, it can feel like the end of the world. However, even the most severe symptom is treatable nowadays.
So if your suffering is keeping you from living the lifestyle you want don’t hesitate to seek help. Treatment range from therapy to medication to changes in lifestyle.
Intense Psychological Support
SSA offers a different standard to those who have been undergoing different anxiety and depression treatment regime especially those who’ve undergone intense psychosocial support or intense therapy that has reduced their symptoms of anxiety disorder.
SSA assumes that in these situations, a person’s capacity to function normally stands a better chance of improvement than would be the case in a real-life situation where the stress and demand would be greater.
If you’ve been undergoing depression treatment for at least two years and you can demonstrate that you have been living in a highly structured environment then you can qualify for disability.
Launching a Disability Claim
You can call the SSA directly on 800-772-1213 to book an appointment or fill out their online application for disability benefits.
As you fill the application, ensure to include a detailed description of how your depression and anxiety affect your daily life, your inability to concentrate and your social functioning.
You can also add information on the inability to complete allocated tasks, follow directions/instructions and how you have episodes of worsening symptoms.
If you have both physical impairment and depression that hinders you to work completely, consider hiring a disability lawyer to assist you to file your SSA disability claim.
Understanding how the SSA works is a key to getting disability for depression and anxiety benefits.
Remember to fill their forms with the correct information as they have a legal obligation to prosecute a person for giving false or inaccurate information to claim Social Security benefits.