Anxiety Disorders: Causes, Treatments, and Social Security DisabilityAn anxiety disorder is different than temporarily feeling anxious because of something going on in your life. Most people have experienced some level of anxiety at one point in their lives or another. The feeling of being anxious about something may be common, but an anxiety disorder may regularly interfere with your ability to work. Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition that may qualify workers for Social Security disability benefits.

Approximately 26 percent of workers who qualified for Social Security disability in 2016 qualified because of mental health conditions, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Mental disorders were the second most common reason that a worker qualified for benefits (with musculoskeletal disorders being the most common reason).

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generally, anxiety disorders include any disorders that cause pathological anxiety and fear. These disorders are classified under two headings, episodic (occurring occasionally) and continuous (never lets up). Some of the well-known anxiety disorders include:

  • Panic disorder. Also known as "panic attacks." The sufferer experiences brief periods of intense fear, accompanied by shaking, heart racing, confusion, breathing difficulties, and nausea. Often the person feels that he is having a heart attack. The triggers are not always evident.

  • Panic disorder with agoraphobia. This disorder begins with panic attacks, which cause the person to avoid what they think triggered them. As a result, he may not leave the home in order to avoid an attack.

  • Phobias. Phobias make up the largest category of anxiety disorders. A phobia causes the person to experience extreme anxiety and fear from a specific trigger. Almost anything can be a trigger, from a barking dog to dirt. Even though a person with a phobia knows he is overreacting, he cannot stop the fear.

  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD). SAD is a phobia that can become severe enough to cause the sufferer to avoid all social situations. Symptoms include sweating, racing heart, blushing, trouble speaking, and much more.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This anxiety disorder begins with obsessions (thoughts or images that constantly appear) and compulsions (ritual behaviors done repeatedly). For instance, obsessive thoughts of disease may lead to the compulsion to wash the hands constantly.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is caused by a traumatic experience such as combat, child abuse, rape, bullying, or a natural disaster. The victims may be overly vigilant, have flashbacks, experience severe anxiety, be angry, or even depressed.

Anxiety orders are typically diagnosed after physical and psychological examinations. Physical exams may determine whether there are any other medical conditions present and psychological exams will determine whether your condition fits the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Causes of Anxiety

You may never know the exact cause of an anxiety disorder. However, some of the known causes of anxiety include:

  • Genetics

  • Stress

  • Alcohol abuse or drug dependence

  • Depression

  • Some medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome

Research is still being done into other causes of anxiety such as diet and environmental impacts.

Treatments for Anxiety

Medical treatments can help some people with anxiety. Treatment options should be discussed with your medical providers, but may include:

  • Medication

  • Therapy

  • Residential treatment

  • Alternative therapies

Treatment should be individualized. The success of treatment varies and your treatment plan may need to be changed if it stops being effective.

Social Security Disability May Be an Option If You Have a Diagnosed Anxiety Disorder

Social Security disability is possible if you suffer from an anxiety-related disorder. However, in order to receive disability benefits for an anxiety disorder, you must qualify under the rigid guidelines of the SSA. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder that interferes with your work, then we encourage you to contact Keefe Disability Law for a free and honest case review. You can also download a FREE copy of our book, The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer