Individuals with social anxiety disorder experience extreme fear and discomfort over being publicly humiliated and/or judged by others. Social anxiety affects people of all ages and symptoms can be range from relatively mild to extremely disabling. Individuals experiencing extreme social anxiety may underachieve in an attempt to avoid attention being brought to them from their teachers or boss, or they may be unable to perform basic tasks, such as using a public restroom or making purchases at a grocery store.
Despite the fact that there is some research supporting the implication of both genetics and low self-esteem, the causes of social anxiety are still disputed. Biologically, social anxiety is linked with a serotonin imbalance. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which helps regulate basic body functions—sleep, mood, memory, etc. Thus, a serotonin imbalance can change the way a body reacts to certain circumstances.
Social anxiety can, and typically does, affect the body both physically and mentally. And these effects of can include behavior and cognition. Signs of the condition include:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty speaking
- Fear that others will notice your symptoms
- Avoiding interactions with strangers or initiating conversations
- Anxiety hindering your ability to function at work or school
It is important that social anxiety disorder should not be mistaken for shyness. On its own, shyness simply does not cause the same extreme reactions as social anxiety. Social anxiety can also lead to other psychological impairments—particularly phobias of specific social situations or depression.
Typically, social anxiety is diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist after they have conducted a basic evaluation. Unfortunately, there is no method of preventing social anxiety. That being said, there are treatments available that help people with the condition by allowing them to lead more normal lives. Social anxiety treatment can involve medication (e.g., Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, beta-blockers, or Benzodiazepines) or cognitive behavior therapies to help people better manage their stress as well as encourage them to practice more rational reactions to social situations.
Is Social Anxiety a Disability?
So, is social anxiety a disability? And can you get disability for anxiety of the social type / nature?
Social Anxiety can be considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Thus, you could be able to receive Social Security disability benefits with social anxiety disorder.
In order to qualify for disability with social anxiety, you need to match a Blue Book listing, which is the list of conditions that qualify for disability.
There are a couple of listings in the Blue Book in which social anxiety can fall under, such as the listing for panic disorder or agoraphobia and General anxiety disorder.
If your social anxiety disorder matches one of those listings, then the SSA will deem you as disabled and you will be able to receive Social Security disability benefits with social anxiety (i.e., get disability for anxiety).
If social anxiety is keeping you from being able to work and lead a normal, healthy lifestyle, you may be able to receive disability for anxiety from the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help you manage your daily activities. Since a social anxiety diagnosis is fairly difficult, and the variability of the disorder is so high, you will need to have extensive medical evidence and detailed accounts of your daily life in order to qualify, and hopefully get, disability for anxiety.
Section 12.00 of the SSA's Blue Book covers Mental Disorders. Social Anxiety is evaluated by the SSA under section 12.06—Anxiety-related Mental Disorders—of the Blue Book. To qualify—and hopefully get disability for anxiety—under this listing, you must provide medical evidence of persistent anxiety accompanied by three out of the following:
- Motor tension
- Autonomic hyperactivity
- Apprehensive expectation
- Vigilance and scanning
Otherwise, you must demonstrate a persistent irrational fear of a specific object situation resulting in avoidance of those circumstances, severe panic attacks at least once a week, obsessions or compulsions which cause distress, or repeated recollections of a traumatic experience, in order to qualify and potentially get disability for anxiety.
Additionally, the Blue Book requires either a complete inability to function independently outside of one's home due to anxiety or at least two of the following:
- Marked restriction of activities of daily living
- Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning
- Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace
- Repeated episodes of decompensation
If you are unable to meet the Blue Book listing for anxiety-related disorders, you may also qualify—and get disability for anxiety—through any other Blue Book listings associated with your symptoms, so long as these listed and experienced symptoms keep you from being able to work and earn a living.
Your Social Anxiety Disability Case
So, what are the next steps in trying to get disability for anxiety?
Securing benefits with social anxiety can be difficult because (1) there is no definitive test for social anxiety, and (2) its diagnosis is hard to confirm. Beyond that, the application to try to get disability for anxiety takes months to complete, and, unfortunately, most initial applications are denied. However, this does not mean that you should give up or avoid applying for disability for anxiety, as these benefits could be incredibly helpful and significant in helping to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A Social Security Disability attorney can help you manage some of the difficulties associated with the application for disability for anxiety of the social nature. In fact, working with a disability attorney is one of the few signs that you will be approved for disability. This is because disability attorneys, given that they are familiar with the disability benefits application process, have been proven to help increase your likelihood of qualifying. These attorneys can walk you through each step of the process to try to get disability for anxiety, as well as potentially presenting your claim to the SSA on your behalf. Many of these attorneys will work for reduced rates or provide free consultations. If you think you may struggle with the application, it is important that you strongly consider seeking a disability attorney out.
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