Individuals who suffer from panic attacks that affect their ability to function normally at work or home are sometimes eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
A panic attack is a sudden intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions despite the lack of any real danger. Individuals can feel as though they have no control of their body; some panic attacks can mimic heart attacks.
Symptoms of panic attacks include:
While it is not uncommon for individuals to have a panic attack or two in their lifetime, those who have panic attacks repeatedly may have a condition called a panic disorder.
If panic attacks or panic disorders go untreated, they can lead to severe complications including:
When individuals are having panic attacks, they have limited functional abilities in all areas. The ability to function at work during a panic attack is minimal, if at all. And even when a panic attack is not happening, the challenge with panic attacks is that they leave individuals in constant fear of the occurrence of another attack. This constant fear can affect an individual’s ability to concentrate and complete tasks or to get along with others in the work place. These mental impairments could affect an individual’s ability to work at virtually any job.
There is a specific listing in Social Security's list of impairments covers anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. You can "meet" Listing 12.06 if you have been diagnosed with panic disorder (or agoraphobia) and you experience one of the following:
You must also be able to show that you have an extreme limitation in one of the following areas or a "marked" limitation in two or more of the following areas:
To meet this listing, it's essential that you provide medical evidence from a psychiatrist or psychologist that fully shows the extent of your panic attacks. Specifically, Social Security likes to see at least one full description of a typical panic attack, including the nature, frequency, and duration of panic attacks, any possible causes for the panic attacks (like external stresses or reoccurring panic attacks when at a certain place), and the effects the panic attack has on your ability to function.
Medical care providers who have witnessed one of your panic attacks should include in their records how your description of the panic attack matched what they saw, and all sources from which they got information about your panic attacks (self-reported, from family members, and so on). If your doctor has never seen you experiencing a panic attack, you can have another who has observed it, such as a spouse or family member, provide a description of what they saw.
In addition, your medical records should include your doctor or therapist's opinion on your ability to: