Many people experience anxiety, but you must meet specific criteria for an anxiety disorder to receive disability benefits.

While everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it can sometimes grow into something more — a condition that affects your ability to function. If this happens and you develop a severe anxiety disorder, you may be able to receive disability benefits or other accommodations.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 301 million people worldwide had an anxiety disorder in 2019. And in 2021, around 25% of workers who received disability benefits in the United States qualified for them based on mental health conditions.

Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder are some of the mental health conditions that may qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits. Here’s what you need to know.

Yes, an anxiety disorder can qualify you to receive disability benefits such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSDI benefits are based on your contributions to Social Security and your work earnings. SSI benefits are based on your income level and needs. You can receive both if you qualify.

To qualify for these programs, you must apply and provide proof of your condition and your level of functioning. The Social Security Administration (SSA) lists the following anxiety disorders as examples of conditions that may qualify someone for disability benefits:

You’ll continue receiving SSDI benefits as long as your condition has not improved and you cannot work. You’ll need to tell the SSA if your ability to work has changed, if you return to work, or if your anxiety improves.

If you have limited income or resources, you may qualify for other programs that can help improve your quality of life, such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

If you’re in active military service or are a veteran and your anxiety disorder is related to your time in the military, you may also qualify for VA disability compensation.

Many people experience anxiety as a natural stress response. But qualifying for disability benefits requires a specific diagnosis.

To qualify to receive SSA disability benefits when living with an anxiety disorder, you must have proper medical documentation showing certain symptoms and limitations in certain areas of mental functioning.

According to the SSA, you must have the following:

Medical documentation

For anxiety disorders, your medical documents must show that you have at least three of these symptoms:

Limitations

You must also be extremely limited in one area of mental functioning or have notable limitations in two areas. The areas are:

  • understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • interacting with others (aka socializing)
  • concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace with tasks
  • managing yourself and adapting to change

Alternatively, an anxiety disorder that is considered “serious and persistent” and has been medically documented for more than 2 years may fulfill the limitations requirement.

Specifically, you must show evidence that you’ve had ongoing treatment that can help with symptoms of your condition and that it’s challenging for you to adapt to changes or demands that aren’t already part of your life.

You can apply for disability benefits online or at a local SSA office. The SSA website has several resources, including an eligibility questionnaire to help you figure out whether you qualify.

You can apply for SSDI and SSI at the same time.

You’ll be asked to provide a range of information, including:

  • basic information about yourself, such as your location, where you were born, and your Social Security number
  • information about your condition, including contact information for any relevant healthcare professionals and a list of treatments and medications
  • permission to access your medical records
  • your work history for the last 2 years
  • information on any current or past spouse, including their Social Security number, the date of marriage or divorce, and the location of marriage
  • direct deposit information for your bank

You can find this information on the SSA’s checklist.

Regarding your condition, you may be asked to provide:

  • medical evidence of your anxiety disorder and treatment history
  • personal evidence from you and people you know, such as family, caregivers, and friends
  • other evidence, such as from school or work, if it’s necessary to assess how you function

You may also be asked to provide evidence of how you function over a long period of time or in different situations.

After you submit an application, the SSA will review it. This can take up to 9 months. You may also be asked to fill out more forms or schedule an evaluation during the review period.

It’s not uncommon to be denied the first time you apply for disability benefits. While this can feel overwhelming, some people submit appeals and are accepted the second time.

You can learn more about appealing a decision from the SSA.

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If you need help applying for disability, some resources are available:

  • The SSA has lots of online content to help you prepare and understand your application. If online applications cause you difficulty or anxiety, you can make an appointment to apply in person at your local SSA office.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers overall information about applying for disability benefits for a mental health condition.
  • You may be able to set up a consultation with a local lawyer who works with disability claims.
  • You can use USA.gov’s tool to find benefits you may qualify for.

Whether or not you decide to apply for disability benefits, there are ways you can make things easier on yourself when living with an anxiety disorder. For example, you may want to request accommodations at work or school.

Types of work accommodations you may be able to get include:

  • Flexible scheduling: You might be able to adjust your start and stop time or make up missed hours.
  • Leave: You may be able to take leave for therapy and other treatment appointments or take a leave of absence if you need it.
  • Breaks: You might have more frequent breaks if you need them, and other employees may provide coverage for these breaks.
  • Changes to your workspace: For example, you might need to avoid noise or lighting that can make work harder for you.
  • Other changes: This could include changes to technology you use, job duties, or management style.

School accommodations will also be individual. You can work with teachers and school administration on anxiety accommodations such as:

  • extra time for taking tests or assignments
  • a space to work quietly
  • extra breaks, if needed
  • mental health resources through the school, such as a school counselor

Many people find the disability benefits process difficult. The eligibility requirements, interviews, review periods, and sheer amount of paperwork can feel impossible when you have a severe mental health condition.

If you’re living with anxiety, support is available. You can find professional support, treatments, community support, natural remedies, and more. You don’t have to go it alone.

You may want to consider some of these anxiety resources:

You might also find these Healthline articles helpful:

If you live with anxiety and are finding it challenging to function in your daily life, disability benefits may be an option.

You can also request other types of accommodations to support yourself at work or school. And if you’re in the military or are a veteran, additional benefits are available through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

No matter the severe your anxiety is, support is available for you in many, many forms. You’re not alone.