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Can You qualify for Social Security disability or SSI on the basis of anxiety or panic attacks?

Social Security Disability and SSI disability claims are often filed on the basis of anxiety disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, or other diagnosed conditions which involve anxiety. Typically, anxiety is not the only condition listed, though there are cases for which a person lists this one condition only.

Anxiety is a valid allegation to list on a disability application. How do you qualify for disability with anxiety disorder or panic attacks? Social Security has two separate means of approval for these types of cases.

The first means of qualifying for disability with anxiety disorder or panic attacks is to satisfy the requirements of a listing in the Social Security Administration's listings manual. More information on this topic is provided here and this page defines the listings as: "the approval criteria for a number of physical and mental impairments. If a claimant's medical records provide the information designated for a specific listing (for example, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, bipolar disorder, or a disorder of the spine), they will be approved on the basis of "meeting or equaling the requirements of a listing".

The listing for anxiety (for adults) falls under 12.00 Mental Disorders, more specifically listing 12.06 Anxiety-related disorders. This listing states that a person must have generalized persistent anxiety together with at least three commonly recognized signs or symptoms of anxiety. The individual's anxiety must be severe enough that they are affected in at least two of the following ways:

1. By having marked restriction of activities of daily living; or

2. By having marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or

3. By having marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or

4. By having repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.


C. By having complete inability to function independently outside the area of one's home.

Not everyone, however, who is approved for disability will receive their benefits as a result of satisfying a listing, in this case the anxiety listing. At least half of all approvals will be through the medical vocational allowance process in which it is determined that they cannot return to work actvitity at a level that earns a substantial and gainful income. This includes not being able to return to any past jobs performed in the last 15 years as well as the inability to do some type of other work.

Notes on qualifying for disability with anxiety disorder or panic attacks

The information above listed the requirements for disability based on anxiety disorder, i.e. the listing for anxiety-related disorders. However, it is should be said that very often persons with mental impairments such as anxiety and panic attacks will have a harder time being approved for Social Security disability.

For individuals with anxiety and panic attacks it is important to have an established mental health history.

You may ask what I mean by mental health history? A mental health history might include hospitalizations, mental health counseling, and medications, all of which documents the severity of your conditions.

Too often, Social Security evaluates all mental conditions as if the conditions were temporary, and disregards the fact that most mental conditions have exacerbations periodically. These exacerbations often preclude the ability to sustain any type of meaningful employment.

Although disability claims based upon mental impairments may be harder to achieve an allowance at the initial and reconsiderations levels, these claims have a fair chance of allowance at the administrative law judge hearing.

In fact, the majority of claims that are denied at the disability application and reconsideration appeals levels and that are later heard by an administrative law judge at a hearing are approved.

Therefore, it would be sound advice to appeal your claim if you are denied on the disability application and reconsideration levels of the Social Security disability process--something that, unfortunately, many claimants neglect to do.

Related: What can I expect from a Social Security Mental Examination or Evaluation?

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

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Can You qualify for Social Security disability or SSI on the basis of anxiety or panic attacks?
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Anxiety Disorder, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
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Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria