Anxiety and Social Security Disability

In several of my blog posts I have touched on particular ailments and how they are addressed in Social Security (SSA) disability claims. Continuing that trend, I thought I would talk about another common ailment in this blog, Anxiety, and how the SSA determines its impact on an individual when evaluating the merits of their disability claim.

What Is Anxiety?

The general symptomatology associated with Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways. Emotionally, some symptoms may include excessive worrying, not being able to relax, not getting enough sleep and irritability, among others. It can affect a person physically as well, which may include such indicators as fatigue, muscle tension, shakiness and headaches, among others.

Anxiety's Symptoms and Different Forms

Beyond this general symptomatology, depending upon the specific flavor of Anxiety a person suffers from, there are a number of additional symptoms that may be specific to an individual. Some examples of these variations are as follows.

Sometimes Anxiety can take the form of irrational fears. These fears may be of physical objects, activities or situations the person finds themselves in which severely affects their ability to function. Some examples may include a heightened fear of snakes or spiders (even images of them), heights, appointments or simply going outside. As such, individuals often isolate themselves which can include cutting ties with their family and friends, paying bills or even getting much-needed medical treatment for the condition.

Another specific form of Anxiety is when a person has certain obsessions or compulsions. This can manifest itself in repeated counting, checking to see if the stove is on, that the door is locked or washing one's hands.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is another common form of Anxiety. It is essentially the frequent "reliving" of particularly stressful events. Examples of these are sexual assaults, military experiences, accidents or deaths of family members or friends. What triggers these episodes varies from individual to individual. Stress, crowds, loud noises and even certain forms of entertainment may cause them.

Panic Attacks

Speaking of triggering, experiencing the above Anxiety variants or others may cause an individual to have panic attacks. When these events occur, the person can experience several emotional and physical symptoms in a rush. Examples of emotional symptoms can include feeling like they are out of control and effectively are about to die, among others. Physical symptoms can include heart palpitations, chest pain, pronounced shakiness and excessive perspiration, among others.

How the SSA Reviews Anxiety Claims

Below is the actual "listing" the SSA uses in reviewing disability claims based on Anxiety for those interested in specifics:

12.06 Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders (see 12.00B5), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

A. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1, 2, or 3:

1. Anxiety disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:

  • Restlessness;
  • Easily fatigued;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Irritability;
  • Muscle tension; or
  • Sleep disturbance.

2. Panic disorder or agoraphobia, characterized by one or both:

  • Panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences; or
  • 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:

  • Involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts; or
  • Repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.


B. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):

  • Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
  • Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
  • Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


C. 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:

  • 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
  • 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).


If you or your child have been denied SSA disability benefits or suffer from a severe impairment that is expected to last more than twelve months and that prevents you from doing any of your past or other work or is causing developmental delay in your child, please contact our office nearest to you to set up a free consultation appointment to discuss your situation.

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