Is Anxiety a Disability?
Anxiety is a feeling of severe fear and overwhelming stress, that is usually associated with negative symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, and feelings of severe stress. Anxiety disorders can be socially limiting and in severe cases hinder individuals to the point where they struggle to cope in a work environment and to do normal everyday tasks.
But the big question is “Is anxiety a disability ?”
A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. When the anxiety disorder you have is severe, it can impact your social life, family life, and work-life negatively.
Anxiety disorders such as phobia, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety have been known to qualify for Social Security disability benefits depending on how well they are documented and their severity or impact on a person.
The factors that qualify an anxiety disorder to be a disability, according to Social Security standards, include:
- It must limit your ability to remember tasks and learn new things
- It must limit your ability to interact appropriately with others
- It must limit your ability to concentrate
- It must limit your ability to look after yourself
Anxiety disorders that are most likely to qualify as a disability are those on the more severe end of the anxiety disorder spectrum. These include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
People with generalized anxiety disorder, tend to experience long-term feelings of fearfulness and severe stress. The emotional and physical negative effects that occur due to these long-term feelings can lead to this disorder becoming a temporary disability in your life .
When you have severe agoraphobia, the fear of not being able to escape easily from a public space, going to important places such as your work office, the shopping center, or social events, becomes very difficult. When agoraphobia prevents you from going to important places and hinders your social life, it can be classified as a temporary disability. Agoraphobia worsens as time goes by and when not helped some individuals struggle to look after themselves.
People with severe panic disorder have frequent panic attacks, followed by a constant worry of having more panic attacks. The consistent worrying about the occurrence of panic attacks that may spontaneously occur in the future can preoccupy your mind to the point where you can no longer concentrate at work or at home, and may even negatively impact your social interactions. When your panic disorder reaches the point where it prevents you from being able to fulfill tasks you normally would be able to, it becomes a temporary disability.
Individuals with OCD have interrupting and repetitive thoughts that are usually relieved by performing repetitive routine-like tasks. These tasks often take up time and can prevent people from meeting deadlines or missing events. When these tasks start becoming involuntary, heavily time-consuming and individuals start repeating these behaviors to reduce their anxiety, OCD is considered to be a disability.
People with PTSD go through traumatic events that get replayed in their minds. The constant flashbacks that these individuals experience disrupt their daily lives. In severe cases of PTSD individuals tend to have the following behaviors which classify this disorder as a disability:
- Avoidance of external reminders of the traumatic event
- Disturbance in their moods
- Increased arousal and reactivity.
Even though anxiety might be a disability, as the definition of disability suggests, it is not to say that the limitations it is currently creating in your life are permanent.
In saying this, the longer you wait to get help the harder it becomes to handle. The most common and effective techniques to help control anxiety disorders are:
- Prescribed medication
- Psychotherapy techniques
- Stress-reducing techniques
Anti-anxiety medications work in the brain and body to help to reduce anxiety and stress. These medications must be prescribed by a medical doctor, usually a psychiatrist. Even though these medications assist with the symptoms of anxiety disorders, they are no cures for these disorders. The types of medication depend on the type of anxiety disorder you have.
Some of the medications used as well as the anxiety disorders they are used for are described below :
- Benzodiazepines: These are usually used for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
- Beta-blockers: These are usually prescribed for short-term anxiety.
- Buspirone: These are used for generalized anxiety disorder.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These are considered antidepressants but are used for most types of anxiety disorders.
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): These are another form of antidepressants also used for most types of anxiety disorders.
- Tricyclic Antidepressants: They are used for treating general anxiety and can be used in any type of anxiety disorder.
The best form of psychotherapy known to assist with anxiety is called cognitive-behavioral therapy and is used by most psychologists. Psychologists use CBT to assist patients to recognize and control the factors contributing to their anxiety.
Psychologists and patients work together to build skills to handle the specific factors contributing to the anxiety and practice these skills in real-life situations outside of therapy sessions. Patients should expect to feel some level of discomfort during sessions as they will be challenged to face situations they normally would not be able to in order to handle them in reality.
If the psychologist feels that CBT might not be the right approach for the patient they can move on to other forms of psychotherapy such as :
- Group psychotherapy: This typically involved several people with the same anxiety disorder working together to overcome their anxiety.
- Family psychotherapy: Using the same approach as group psychotherapy, but only using family members.
Please note: There other forms of psychotherapy but these have not been proven to be as effective as the methods mentioned above.
Stress-reducing techniques are lifestyle strategies you can put in place every day to help reduce your stress levels and in the long-run help control your anxiety.
Some of the daily activities you can incorporate to reduce your stress include the following :
- Chewing gum
- Coloring, painting, or drawing
- Doing a crossword puzzle or sudoku
- Focusing on the positive aspects of your life
- Going for a walk
- Indulging in your favorite food
- Massaging your temples for a few minutes
- Planning a day to do nothing and following through with it
- Planning a vacation and visualizing the setting
- Practicing gratitude
- Sitting down for a few minutes
- Spending time with a friend
- Spending time with your dog or cat
- Spiritual practice
- Stretching out
- Taking a nap
- Watching a comedy or funny online video
- Watching the sunset or sunrise
- Writing and journaling
- Writing a poem or a song
Anxiety may be labeled as a disability but it does not have to mean that you don’t have the ability to do tasks that you want to do or want to strive towards doing. Or even to be fully happy.
If you are determined to fulfill a task or work towards a goal that your anxiety disorder is currently holding you back from then using the above-mentioned techniques is a good idea. The key to treating anxiety is to develop the skills that work best for you and your anxiety disorder.
Anxiety does not have to be the barrier blocking you from your dream, and with a little bit of help and a lot of positivity, you will be able to get there. You need to have a willingness to want to succeed and learn to manage your symptoms.
With the right amount of determination, Self-love, and compassion, anything is possible. Keep positive and keep going, persistence is one of the greatest tools when trying to accomplish anything in life!
Hopefully, I helped you with your question and if so, please share it on social media to get some exposure.
Your coach and friend,