How Severe Must Anxiety Be To Qualify For Disability Benefits?

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you may find yourself facing new limitations on a regular basis. Anxiety can be crippling, preventing you from holding down a job, spending time with friends or family members, or sometimes even leaving the house. But if you're considering filing for Social Security disability insurance on the basis of an anxiety disorder, you may wonder whether the "invisible" nature of this disorder will harm your chances for approval. Read on to learn more about how anxiety is treated under Social Security disability regulations. 

Is Anxiety Covered By Social Security Disability? 

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders are classified as disabilities just like cancer, blindness, or congestive heart failure. However, because these ailments don't tend to produce the same types of physical symptoms as other disabilities, successfully applying for Social Security disability benefits on the basis of anxiety can take a bit of extra documentation. 

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you'll need to show that your anxiety disorder: 

  • Has been diagnosed by an appropriately licensed psychologist or psychiatrist (simply claiming that you have anxiety may not be enough);
  • Creates a severe impact on your everyday life by preventing you from being able to perform basic activities of daily living like showering, feeding yourself regularly, or buying groceries; and
  • Is a long-term disorder—that is, it's affected your daily life for at least one year already or is expected to affect you for the next year (or longer). 

You'll also need to show that your anxiety disorder has impacted your ability to function in at least two of four areas. These include: 

  • The ability to understand, remember, or apply new information, which generally impacts both your capacity to perform your current job and your capacity to train for a new job or career; 
  • The ability to interact with others in an appropriate manner; 
  • The ability to concentrate and complete tasks when asked; and 
  • The ability to manage your own life through the use of practical skills like maintaining proper hygiene, paying bills, and showing up to work on a regular basis. 

So if your anxiety doesn't affect your ability to get up, get dressed, and show up for work each day but does prevent you from concentrating on your work or remembering the information you need to do your job, it may be sufficiently severe to qualify you for disability benefits. By that same token, an anxiety disorder that allows you to understand instructions and concentrate enough to complete tasks but keeps you from adhering to a work schedule or maintaining proper hygiene may also be legitimately disabling. 

Learn more by reaching out to a Social Security lawyer.