Can I Continue Working With Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are psychiatric disorders which cause excessive worry, unease, fear of the future, apprehensiveness, and difficulty dealing with uncertainty to the degree that it affects a person’s mental, emotional, and/or physical health. The disorder causes high levels of stress and anxiety, ranging from mild fits of nervousness to full blown terror. The three main types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder - Commonly referred to as panic attacks, this type of anxiety disorder brings about brief but often intense fear and apprehension. Its symptoms range from shaking to nausea to breathing problems. Attacks can range from ten minutes to hours on end.
  • Phobic disorder - This form of anxiety disorder generally leads to severe (and often irrational) fear of something specific. The phobia can be of an actual thing, or it can be of an event or activity.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder - This type of anxiety disorder causes long term anxiety which is not fixated on a particular object or event. To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you must generally be demonstrably anxious for six months or longer.

How Anxiety Disorders Affect Your Physical Capacity for Work

Although anxiety disorders are not physical maladies, they can affect people's ability to perform physical work. Thus, individuals who have panic attacks, shaking, or other common effects of anxiety disorders, may find it difficult to perform tasks which require fine motor skills. On top of this, many jobs that involve physical labor (especially heavy physical labor) are actually quite dangerous for people who have and suffer from anxiety attacks. Additionally, many people who suffer from anxiety disorders also have muscle tension, which can cause some forms of physical work to be much more difficult.

How Anxiety Disorders Affect Your Mental Capacity for Work

Anxiety disorders have a much larger impact on people's mental and emotional capacity for work. Whether you suffer from panic attacks, phobias, generalized anxiety, or some combination of these conditions, anxiety disorders can fundamentally make it very difficult to concentrate on any task. This is because the behaviors that oftentimes accompany feelings of fear and terror (decompression) can also make it incredibly difficult to interact with coworkers or supervisors. In turn, this makes it difficult for people with anxiety—and such symptoms—to maintain employment, even if they are able to find something that they can do.

Many people who have anxiety disorders also deal with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), which can cause additional problems at the workplace. Others deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may also limit which types of work environments they are able to handle. Unfortunately, most employers are not willing or able to take the extra care that is necessary in order to work with people who have these disorders, making it very difficult for these employees to stay gainfully employed.

Tips on Preventing Anxiety from Interfering with Work

Many professionals that are too anxious to work do not understand how, and thereby are unable, to pull themselves out of their mental malaise. Thus, one of the most important tips to prevent anxiety from interfering with work revolves around discussing your anxieties and issues with someone that you trust.

This trusted confidant can be a professional peer or even someone you lean on outside of the workplace. By confiding in someone that you trust, you might not have to divulge your anxiety struggles with a stranger like a psychologist. In short, simply having the ability to "let it out" and actually “letting it out” can help people reduce their anxious feelings in the workplace.

Another time-tested strategy that can help prevent anxiety from interfering with work is to educate yourself about anxiety-driven disorders. More specifically, educating yourself on anxiety, its common causes and triggers, and coping mechanisms, can actually help you learn how to recognize anxiety symptoms as well as how you can handle anxiety when it develops at work.

You also should consider reducing your workload to decrease the amount of pressure you feel. Schedule enough work tasks each to get the job done, without feeling too anxious to work. If you struggle with organizing your workload, it is important that you start your attempts to do so by completing relatively easy tasks before you try to tackle more complex projects.

Much of the anxiety professionals feel in the workplace stems from keeping everything inside. So, speak up when you start to feel overwhelmed, and keep in mind that you can return the favor of helping reduce the anxiety of a co-worker when that time arises.

Workplace Anxiety and Disability Benefits

If you receive a diagnosis (and suffer) from an anxiety-related disorder, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits. In other words, if a doctor has diagnosed you as being someone who suffers from an anxiety-related disorder, then you may be able to get disability for anxiety.

When evaluating such claims that are attempting to get financial assistance (i.e., disability for anxiety), a team of medical examiners from the Social Security Administration (SSA) refers to a guide called the Blue Book to determine applicants' eligibility. The Blue Book is made up of a list of disabilities that qualify for SSD.

To qualify for disability benefits, you must experience severe professional limitations in one or more areas. For example, if you have difficulty remembering instructions as well as understanding new professional concepts, you might be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.

Furthermore, experiencing trouble and/or difficulty when interacting with your professional colleagues as well as an inability to manage your daily routine are two more signs pointing to the fact that you struggle with acute anxiety in the workplace.

Finally, when trying to get disability for anxiety from the SSA, you must provide evidence in your application that you struggle with anxiety. This evidence must be in the form of a professional analysis presented by a properly credentialed mental health specialist.

Anxiety Disorders and Applying for Social Security Disability

So, how can I get disability for anxiety?

If you deal with an anxiety disorder(s), you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits. It’s important to realize that not all cases of anxiety disorder are severe enough to meet the Social Security Administration’s stringent guidelines. So, if you are unsure whether you qualify for disability for anxiety, you should consider speaking with a Social Security lawyer or disability advocate. Not only will your chances of having your claim for getting disability for anxiety approved improve, but you will also have less stress in dealing with the SSA if you do so through a lawyer. Take our Social Security calculator to see how much you could earn in disability benefits.

Generally speaking, in order to have your claim approved based on anxiety disorders—i.e., be successful in getting disability for anxiety—your condition must be medically documented and also must be shown to be severely affecting your ability to perform any meaningful work. You will also need to show how your daily life is impacted by your disorder. This can be done by providing the SSA with the specific details of how your anxiety affects your daily life, social functioning, and your ability to concentrate on tasks, in your application.

Finally, in order to be approved for benefits, and thereby get disability for anxiety, you must be able to give evidence that shows exactly how your anxiety disorder makes it impossible to perform any work you’ve performed in the past, or any work that is available to you (for which you could reasonably be trained). 

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!