Can I Get Disability For Anxiety? (Updated for 2024)

Table of Contents

What is Anxiety Disorder?

An anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by persistent feelings of apprehension, tension, or uneasiness. For those who are truly disabled on the basis of anxiety, these feelings are not simply nerves or nervousness, but rather are overwhelming feelings of alarm and even terror that can be provoked by ordinary events or situations occurring in everyday life. 

Is Anxiety a Disability?

Anxiety can be considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA), especially if it significantly impairs a person's ability to perform essential life activities and work full-time. However, whether it qualifies as a disability depends on individual circumstances and the severity of the anxiety.

Those with anxiety disorder can qualify for disability, and even get disability for anxiety, so long as they are able to prove to the SSA that their anxiety makes it impossible to work. If you are someone who is applying to try to get disability for anxiety, you must submit evidence showing how your anxiety disorder matches the SSA's Blue Book requirements. 

Further Reading: Tips On Qualifying For Disability Benefits With Anxiety 

What Are The Types of Anxiety that Qualify For Disability?

Doctors diagnose five major types of anxiety characterized by their symptoms:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder – a fairly constant state of tension and worry not related to any particular event or situation. To be diagnosed as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder, this state must last at least six months.
  2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – repetitive or ritualistic behavior performed to reduce or control symptoms of anxiety, such as recurrent thoughts or impulses.
  3. Panic Disorder – repeated attacks of anxiety or terror that last up to 10 minutes and have no identifiable cause.
  4. Phobias – overwhelming, irrational, and involuntary fears of common situations, things, places, or events.
  5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – severe stress symptoms lasting more than a month caused by being part of or witnessing a traumatic event.

There is a wide variety of causes for normal anxiety, ranging from someone having a mental disorder(s) (e.g., depression), to adverse reactions to medication(s), to stressful (but temporary) life situations (e.g., divorce, losing your job). Thus, as one might expect, normal anxiety can have many causes. 

Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders for Disability Claims

When attempting to diagnose an anxiety disorder as disabling in order to help someone get disability for anxiety, a doctor will attempt to rule out such causes (touched on above) in order to prove that that the basis of their patient’s anxiety is not attributable to a separate issue or event. Additionally, to determine the impact of these symptoms of anxiety on the patient's ability to engage in daily tasks such as work or school, the doctor will likely attempt to establish both the duration and severity of their patient's anxiety symptoms. In order for a person's anxiety to be categorized as a true “anxiety disorder,” their anxiety must interfere both directly and significantly with work, relationships, social life, and/or daily activities. 

Mental and Physical Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

Mental symptoms of anxiety disorders include overwhelming feelings of panic and fear, uncontrollable obsessive thoughts, recurring nightmares, and memories that are both painful and intrusive. Physical symptoms of anxiety disorders include increased heart rate, sweating, shaking, nausea, muscle tension, and other uncomfortable physical reactions. Typically, anxiety symptoms—if left untreated—tend to grow worse and can make normal life activities (e.g., relationships, jobs, education, leaving the house) difficult or even impossible. 

Treatment Approaches for Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, and stress-reducing techniques intended to minimize, control, and eventually eliminate the worst symptoms of the disorder. The effectiveness of such treatment(s) depends on the type of anxiety being treated, its severity, and whether the person with the disorder has any control over the causes of their anxiety. 

How Can You Get Disability for Anxiety?

You can get disability for anxiety as long as you are able to prove that you are unable to work full-time because of it. 

Anxiety disorder is one of many conditions that qualifies for disability. If you meet the medical requirements outlined by the SSA’s Blue Book, and have earned enough work credits, you will likely be deemed as disabled by the SSA, enabling you to get disability for anxiety (a.k.a., anxiety disability). 

You will need to prove that your anxiety qualifies for disability benefits. You can do this by providing enough medical evidence that you qualify. Take our free disability evaluation to see if you qualify for disability. 

Use our Social Security benefits calculator to see how much you could get for disability for anxiety.

Getting Social Security For Anxiety

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers anxiety disorders under Section 12.06 of the Blue Book. Section 12.00 of the Blue Book covers Mental illness disability.

It can be difficult to claim Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on the basis of an anxiety disorder diagnosis because the medical evidence supporting the diagnosis is (1) highly subjective, and (2) is based on hard-to-document criteria (e.g., feelings and behavior that occurs outside the doctor’s office and is reported to the doctor by the patient). 

Importance of Comprehensive Medical History

Thus, in order to successfully apply for anxiety disorder disability benefits (and hopefully get those anxiety disability benefits), you need to be sure that you present a substantial history of the treatment you have received from medical professionals (including both your physician and your qualified mental health professional), in order for you to be able to highlight the recurrent and/or persistent nature of your anxiety disorder to the SSA. In fact, this is one of the most important and influential signs your disability claim will be approved

SSA's Definition of Disability and Documentation

The SSA’s definition of a disability is “any medically determinable mental or medical impairment that has prevented an individual from performing substantial work for twelve months, is expected to prevent an individual from working for twelve continuous months, or is expected to end with death.” Therefore, it is crucial that you are 100% sure that your medical documentation can thoroughly, and specifically, demonstrate to the SSA exactly how your anxiety interferes with your ability to function on a daily basis. 

Meeting Criteria for Anxiety Disability Benefits

If you are trying to get anxiety disability, and you apply for disability benefits under Anxiety-Related Disorders, you must meet the conditions of either Paragraphs A and B below, OR the conditions of Paragraphs A and C below.

  1. You must have medical documentation of one of the following:
    1. Constant generalized anxiety, with three of the following four symptoms: motor tension, vigilance and scanning, autonomic hyperactivity, or apprehensive expectation.
    2. Constant irrational fear of a situation, object, or activity that results in a significant desire to avoid the situation, object, or activity.
    3. Recurring severe panic attacks that are characterized by sudden unpredictable episodes of intense fear, apprehension, terror, and a sense of impending doom that happen at least once a week.
    4. Recurrent compulsions or obsessions that cause of marked distress.
    5. Recurring intrusive remembrances of a traumatic experience that causes marked distress.
  2. The condition under Paragraph A above must result in at least two of the following OR Paragraph C below:
    1. Marked problems maintaining concentration.
    2. Marked difficulties with persistence, or pace.
    3. Repeated periods of decompensation, each of extended duration.
    4. Marked difficulties maintaining social functioning; or restriction of routine activities of daily life.
  3. The conditions described in Paragraph A must result in your total inability to function independently outside your home.

If your anxiety does not qualify for full Social Security disability, there is a chance you may still be awarded a medical vocational allowance. 

What If My Anxiety Doesn’t Meet the Criteria For Disability Benefits?

If you don’t meet the conditions for one of the Blue Book listings, it can be difficult to medically qualify for disability benefits. It’s always best to try and show that you meet the specific requirements for anxiety in the Blue Book. But if you really don’t meet any of the Blue Book requirements then you can try to qualify for disability benefits with an MRFC. 

An MRFC is a Mental Residual Functional Capacity form. You can get a blank copy on the SSA’s website. Your doctor or psychologist needs to fill out the MRFC for you. In the MRFC your doctor or psychologist needs to list in great detail all of the symptoms caused by your anxiety, and they must spell out why those symptoms make it impossible for you to work because of your anxiety. 

For example, your psychologist would need to write on the MRFC that your extreme anxiety associated with public transportation makes it impossible for you to take the train or bus to work but you don’t have a car so there’s no way for you to get to a job. 

You will also need to provide a lot of medical evidence and show that you’re receiving continuous treatment for anxiety. Medical evidence can include things like MRIs, behavioral assessments, prescriptions that you take, and letters supporting your claim from psychologists and mental health counselors. Former employers can also write letters describing how your symptoms made it impossible for you to work.

Get Help Filing For Disability For Anxiety

If you are disabled because of anxiety that prevents you from working, you may very well be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits.

 Despite the fact that getting total anxiety disability—i.e., disability for anxiety, or disability that is based on an Anxiety Disorder)—can be quite difficult to prove as a result of the subjective nature of its diagnosis, working closely with medical professionals as well as a qualified Social Security disability attorney or disability advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation that supports your anxiety disability claim, can help you ensure that you are presenting the strongest possible anxiety disability case to get the disability for anxiety you deserve and may need. A disability lawyer will be able to tell you how much disability you can get.

Further Reading: What Conditions Automatically Qualify You for Disability? 

Additional Resources