Anxiety disorders and panic attacks are both related, potentially disabling impairments. But while many people suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, not all of them become disabled.
Merely having a diagnosis of an anxiety or panic disorder is not enough to win a disability case. This is because anxiety and panic disorders can have a range of severity.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), a diagnosis does not establish a specific level of impairment or disability “because impairments, abilities, and disabilities vary widely within each diagnostic category.”
Understanding anxiety and panic attacks
Everyone experiences some anxiety in their lives, and many people have experienced panic attacks. But anxiety and panic disorders are characterized by excessive fear, anxiety, and related behavioral disturbances.
“Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat.” DSM-V.
Panic attacks are “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes.” DSM-V. Also, panic attacks are coupled with at least four of fourteen possible mental and physical symptoms.
There are many types of anxiety disorders that may develop over a person’s lifetime, including separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, phobias, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and panic attacks can also be caused by other mental disorders, like depression, or physical conditions, like heart disease.
Proving the severity of anxiety and panic attacks
Whether a person is applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the key to winning is showing that the disorder is severe enough to keep the person from performing substantial gainful activity.
The best way to prove that any impairment is severe is by showing consistent complaints of symptoms despite medical treatment. This means going to the doctor regularly and following the recommendations and prescribed treatment.
When people have a severe physical or mental illness or injury that prevents them from working, they should contact an experienced disability lawyer for help and advice about their case.