Anxiety and Social Security Disability

A Top Ten Disability Group in the U.S.

Anxiety and Social Security Disability

Anxiety is a common condition in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 30% of U.S. adults have suffered from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Of course, there are many types of anxiety disorders, and anxiety varies in severity. For some, the condition can be debilitating. 

Qualifying for SSDI with Anxiety

The Social Security Blue Book includes listings for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, but not all anxiety symptoms are sufficient to qualify the affected person for Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits. To qualify for SSDI benefits for anxiety, the applicant must (along with meeting other criteria) suffer from at least three of the following: 

  • Restlessness
  • Becoming fatigued easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance

For panic disorder or agoraphobia, the applicant must establish that they suffer from one or both of: 

  • Panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences
  • Disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations 

For obsessive-compulsive disorder, the applicant must establish that they suffer from one or both of: 

  • Involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts
  • Repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety

Just suffering from these symptoms isn’t sufficient to qualify for SSDI, though. Many people have anxiety disorders characterized by these and other symptoms but don’t suffer severe enough impairment to be considered disabled. In addition to the requirements listed above, someone pursuing Social Security disability benefits for an anxiety disorder must also fulfill one of two additional sets of criteria, known as Paragraph B and Paragraph C requirements.

Paragraph B Requirements for Anxiety Disorders

Paragraph B requirements are satisfied if the applicant experiences extreme limitation of one of the following or marked limitation of two: 

  • Understanding, remembering, and applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself

Each of these criteria has its own detailed definition. An experienced Social Security disability benefits advocate can help you understand what each of the mental functions listed means and what may be considered an extreme or marked limitation of those functions. 

If these specific criteria are not met, the applicant may still qualify if Paragraph C requirements are fulfilled. 

Paragraph C Requirements for Anxiety Disorders

Paragraph C requirements are met if your condition is “serious and persistent,” but that term has a very specific meaning to the Social Security Administration (SSA). For a condition to be considered serious and persistent, you must:

  • Have a documented medical history of the condition dating back at least two years, and
  • Show evidence of ongoing treatment, a structured environment, or psychosocial supports that mitigate your symptoms, and
  • Minimal capacity to adapt to changes or demands that are not already part of your daily life

What if My Anxiety Condition Doesn’t Meet the Blue Book Criteria?

The SSA recognizes that they can’t possibly imagine and put into a listing every single combination of symptoms that may be disabling. So, while a wide range of conditions are listed in the Blue Book with criteria that clearly qualifies an applicant, that analysis isn’t the end of the road. If the applicant’s condition doesn’t meet or equal a listed disability, the SSA will consider the individual’s “residual functional capacity” for engaging in substantial gainful activity (SGA)

What is Substantial Gainful Activity?

The SSA says work is “substantial” if it involves significant physical or mental activities or a combination of the two. That work is considered “gainful” if it is:

  • Performed for pay or profit, 
  • Of a type that is usually performed for pay or profit, or
  • Intended for profit, whether or not a profit is actually realized

The SSA sets forth a threshold amount of income that is considered SGA. In 2023, that amount is $1,470 for most applicants and $2,460 for applicants who are blind. Those numbers are adjusted every year. But, as you can see from the bulleted list above, simply earning below the threshold doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be found to be engaging in substantial gainful activity. For example, you might have opted to work 30 hours/week for free in a business owned by a relative–you aren’t making money, but the work is of a type usually performed for pay, so could still be considered gainful. Similarly, you could be investing significant time in building a business that has not yet generated any profit and still be considered to be engaged in SGA. 

What is Residual Functional Capacity? 

It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be currently engaged in SGA to be deemed capable of it. The SSA is interested in what you can do, not just what you are doing. That’s where residual functional capacity comes in. It’s a complex term, but it simply means what you are able to do in spite of whatever limitations your condition causes. 

An SSDI claim based on limited residual functional capacity to engage in substantial gainful activity is typically more complicated than one based on Blue Book criteria. Though both require medical documentation. However, with the listed conditions it’s clear exactly what the medical records must establish. In a residual functional capacity case, it’s up to the applicant to assemble sufficient documentation to support the necessary degree of limitation, without a clear indication of the type of information the SSA is looking for. 

This is where a seasoned disability benefits advocate can really help. 

Talk to a Disability Benefits Advocate Right Away

Getting approved for SSDI for mental health conditions like anxiety can be a battle. And, it’s all the more difficult if you aren’t sure exactly what type of information you should be providing or what type of documentation will be needed. An experienced disability advocate can help with that, from explaining exactly what the Blue Book criteria require and what type of evidence will best support your claim to helping determine which elements of your medical history are relevant to establishing that your residual functional capacity is limited. 


To learn more about how Disability Help Group can help you put together the strongest application or appeal possible, call (800) 800-3332 right now, or fill out our contact form.

Free Case Review, 100% Guaranteed

Let our friendly team help you with your disability claim

Will I Lose My SSD Benefits if I Move to a Different State?

Will I Lose My SSD Benefits if I Move to a Different State?  Social Security disability (SSD) is a federal program based on your work history and contributions to the program through payroll taxes. Your eligibility for SSD won’t change if you move from one U.S....

TBI And C&P Exams For Disabled Veterans

TBI VA Disability Benefits Unless there are special rules that apply, the VA will deny service connection for Traumatic  Brain Injury (TBI) unless the Veteran can prove a: Current diagnosis, In-service event, disease or injury, and Medical nexus between the first 2...

Highest Disability Approval Rates By State

Highest Disability Approval Rates By State If you’re applying for or considering applying for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits, you’ve probably heard that denial rates are high. You may also know that if you appeal, you can wait a long time for a hearing....

Will a GoFundMe Campaign Affect My SSD?

Will a GoFundMe Campaign Affect My SSD?  If you’re unable to work due to a disability, you may be struggling with medical bills and other expenses. While Social Security disability (SSD) is intended to provide income for people in just that situation, it can take...

How To Increase Your VA Disability Rating

How To Increase Your VA Disability Rating From 70% To 100% If you currently have a 70% VA disability rating, you may already understand how VA ratings work. A 100% VA disability rating is the maximum allowed by law and with some diligent work and, the help of a...

Benefits for Children of Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange

Benefits for Children of Vietnam Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange The children of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange often suffer serious disabling health conditions. Many infants born in the 1960s and 70s following the Vietnam and Korean Wars suffered birth...

Can I get 100% VA Disability for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea can have a severe impact on your life. Call Now for a FREE CASE REVIEW to see if you are eligible for VA 100% disability rating.

What is the Criteria for 70% TBI Disability Rating?

What is the Criteria for 70% TBI Disability Rating? What is the Criteria for 70% TBI Disability Rating? After VA grants service connection for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI disability), VA must determine the correct rating percentage.  As a result, the rating percentage...

Can I get 100% VA Disability for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea can have a severe impact on your life. Call Now for a FREE CASE REVIEW to see if you are eligible for VA 100% disability rating.

If Someone Getting SSD Dies, Can I Get Their Benefits?

If Someone Getting SSD Dies, Can I Get Their Benefits? Not exactly. Social Security disability benefits (SSD) are for the disabled worker, and those benefits terminate when the recipient passes away. But that doesn’t necessarily mean dependents are on their own. Here...

How Long Do I Have to Work to Qualify for SSD?

How Long Do I Have to Work to Qualify for SSD? When most people think of qualifying for Social Security Disability (SSD), they think about proving that their medical condition is severe enough that they are unable to earn a living. That is a necessary part of the...

Can I get A 100% VA Rating for PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma?

Can I get A 100% VA Rating for PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disability triggered by a traumatic event.  When the average person thinks of a traumatic military event,...

FREE CASE REVIEW