Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Condition and Symptoms
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event. You can develop PTSD when you experience or witness an event that causes intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Experience of trauma does not always trigger this disorder; most people recover from trauma, given time and effective coping methods. Sometimes, however, the symptoms worsen and last a long time and sometimes they are so severe they interfere with your life. These cases are classified as PTSD.
Post traumatic stress disorder has also been called post traumatic stress syndrome, battle fatigue, or shell shock. However, not only does it sometimes affect war survivors and those who have served in combat, it can also result from childhood abuse, rape, violence, or even a traumatic natural catastrophe, such as a hurricane.
PTSD also puts you at risk for problems such as depression, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and suicide. Not only does PTSD affect the emotions and thoughts, it has also been linked to physical conditions such chronic pain, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Post traumatic stress disorder is diagnosed based on a psychological evaluation in which the psychologist or psychiatrist looks for the symptoms described below. You may also have a physical exam to check for any other medical problems.
PTSD symptoms usually begin within three months of a traumatic event. Sometimes, however, reaction can be delayed, sometimes for years. Symptoms can come and go and are often more likely to occur during times of stress in your life, or if something happens in your daily life to trigger a memory of the traumatic event.
- Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event
- Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Avoiding activities
- Feeling hopeless
- Having trouble with your memory
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability or difficulty in maintaining close relationships
- Irritability or anger
- Overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior
- Difficulty sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
Treatment for post traumatic stress disorder is best when it takes place soon after the symptoms start. It can include one or more of the following: counseling and psychotherapy or medications (including anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and anti-psychotics). An alternative therapy is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis
Post traumatic stress disorder cases are approved by SSA either by satisfying the criteria under Section 12.06 of the Blue Book, or by medical vocational allowance.
Most PTSD claims are approved as a medical vocational allowance. If SSA finds that your PTSD symptoms are not severe enough to meet the listing, it will award a medical allowance if the condition is severe enough to prevent you from working in a former job and severe enough to prevent you from working at another job that would pay you a “substantial and gainful” income.
Some disability claims for post traumatic stress disorder are approved by satisfying the Blue Book listing requirements under “Anxiety Disorders.” To do this, you must meet the requirements of Paragraph A and the requirements of either Paragraph B or Paragraph C.
Your medical records must document at least one of the following findings:
- You must recall a traumatic experience; and/or
- You must have recurring obsessions or compulsions; and/or
- You must exhibit an irrational fear of a situation, object, or activity that is persistent enough that it causes a compulsion in you to avoid the situation, object, or activity; and/or
- You must have severe panic attacks, with symptoms of fear, intense apprehension, and feelings of impending doom and terror, on an average of at least once a week; and/or
- You must experience generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms: autonomic hyperactivity (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dry mouth, cold hands, and dizziness), apprehensive expectation (anxiety, fear, worry, and persistent thoughts of potential misfortune), motor tension (fatigability, trembling, restlessness, and muscle tension), or vigilance and scanning behavior (feeling keyed up, increased startling, and impaired concentration).
Your medical records must show at least two of the following findings:
- You are markedly restricted in your normal daily activities, and/or
- You have marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and/or
- You have marked difficulty in maintaining your concentration, persistence, or pace, and/or
- You have repeated episodes of decompensation (worsening psychiatric symptoms), that are of extended duration.
Your medical records must prove that your PTSD results in your complete inability to function on your own outside your house.
In addition, you must meet the conditions of either paragraph B or C below:
When presenting your disability claim, your medical records should include at least one detailed description of the anxiety reaction you experience. That description should include the nature, duration, and frequency of the anxiety reaction and the effect(s) the anxiety reaction has on your ability to function. It should also include incidental factors that may cause or worsen the anxiety reaction. In addition, this description should indicate whether the description of the anxiety reaction matches your doctor's own observations.
Your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Disability Case
If you are disabled because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is severe enough to prevent you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your Post Traumatic Stress Disorder disability case will have the highest possible chance of success.