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Is anxiety a disability? This is a question that has ignited debate too. A sound education about the disorder and how it affects lives is important to understand why anxiety is considered a disability.
And here, you can read everything you need to know about why anxiety is a disability. Read on to know more about anxiety and how it’s caused, to answer the question, is anxiety a disability?
1. When Is Mental Illness a Disability?
A psychiatric disability is a mental disorder that hinders the daily major life activities of the person. According to the ADA, it must span a long period. It limits the person’s functioning in occupational and social aspects, making it difficult for them to earn a living.
The severity of mental health disorders is a fundamental determinant here. It must be severe enough to impact essential work activities to be considered a disability.
Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the US alone. They are the most common mental illnesses in the US. A treatable disorder with high recovery levels, people suffering from anxiety don’t usually ask for help until much later. Only about 36.9% of the people suffering from anxiety get treatment.
Knowing more about anxiety is crucial before answering the question; Is anxiety a disability?
2. About Anxiety
Anxiety is our body’s natural reaction to a dangerous or stressful thought or situation. People feel it before taking an exam an interview, or any stressful and unpleasant activity. Such occasional anxiousness is normal human behavior.
2.1. When Is Anxiety a Disability?
Anxiety disorders are different than anxiety. They constantly worry and fear that something bad may happen. They overthink, and a sense of impending doom keeps them on edge.
Know the feeling of immense fear the moment you realize you’re going to fall? That’s exactly how people with anxiety feel. It’s difficult to gain control of your surroundings or function well when you live with such crippling anxiety.
People with anxiety disorders always mention how they are always on edge. It’s an uncontrollable feeling, which makes it scarier and it takes the shape of a disability. But with treatment and a few techniques, people learn to cope with it and live happily.
3. Types of Anxiety Disorders
These are different types of anxiety disorders. There are varying degrees of severity for each disorder.
3.1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
People with GAD find it difficult to control their worrying and anxiousness over the things in their lives. They are very restless anticipate danger and fear the worst. Symptoms also include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and trouble concentrating.
3.2. Separation Anxiety Disorder –
Most common in children, it is an anxiety disorder where separating from a loved one causes anxiety. In adults, this disorder can lead to panic attacks, deep sadness, and difficulty focusing on tasks when separated from loved ones.
3.3. Phobias –
An anxiety disorder where people have a deep irrational fear of things like animals or water. They actively try to avoid encounters with the things they consider dangerous.
3.4. Selective Mutism –
An anxiety disorder faced by children, SM children find difficulty communicating outside comfortable environments. That is, they won’t communicate properly in select social settings due to anxiety and fear. If not treated, it can persist throughout adulthood.
3.5. Social Anxiety Disorders –
An anxiety disorder characterized by a fear of meeting new people or day-to-day social interactions. Such people tend to avoid social gatherings, public speaking, or meetings because they fear other people’s scrutiny and judgment.
Agoraphobia is an irrational and deep fear of places that may lead to stressful, dangerous, or helpless situations. An example is the fear of elevators faced by some people. Sometimes it can be so severe that people may be scared even to leave their bed or home.
Anxiety is a disability if it is one of the above.
4. Various Stages of Anxiety
There are four stages of severity of anxiety. Mild, moderate, severe, and panic-level anxiety.
4.1. Mild Level
The Mild level of anxiety isn’t worrisome. It is characterized by shyness or social anxiety.
4.2. Moderate Level
A moderate level of anxiety is characterized by prolonged periods of restlessness and anxiety. Daily activities aren’t affected as seriously, but a psychologist’s help is needed to retain normalcy.
4.3. Severe Level
Severe levels of anxiety are increasingly debilitating to the person suffering from it. Characterized by increased heart rate, frequent panicking, and fatigue, severe anxiety patients require clinical help. The symptoms affect functioning so greatly that the loss of jobs is common among people suffering from severe anxiety. Depression often occurs simultaneously, increasing the disability of the person.
4.4. Panic Level
Panic-level anxiety or Panic Disorder involves frequent panic attacks, which may last for as long as 10 minutes. The symptoms include heart palpitations, choking for air, nausea, and dizziness.
The trigger for panic attacks varies from person to person. Sometimes, to make matters worse, the trigger is unknown. Frequent panic attacks can greatly affect the social and occupational spheres of a person’s life.
5. How Is Life with Anxiety
5.1. Isolated or distant
People with anxiety find it difficult to carry out specific tasks if it triggers severe anxiety in them. They find carrying out meaningful conversations, participating in group activities, and public speaking difficult. These activities make them feel irrational fear.
This affects their life in disastrous ways. Hopelessness and despair set in, and without support, their anxiety becomes a burden they fail to cope with. The motivation to do important tasks and learn new skills deteriorates. This affects their professional and personal lives adversely.
5.3. Mental Breakdowns
Mental breakdowns are a common occurrence, accompanied by increased heartbeat and intense, overwhelming feelings. Outside their homes, they’re anxious about being judged by other people constantly. This makes communication difficult since they fear that they’ll make embarrassing mistakes. And they increasingly prefer to stay holed up at home.
5.4. Lack of Performance
Anxiety disorders can be difficult to handle, considering the person’s occupation. People with anxiety disorders find deadlines, meetings, public speaking, presentations, and traveling activities too much to handle. In such cases, they may underperform in office and thereby lose the opportunity to get promoted and other benefits.
Managing staff, participating in meetings, and doing presentations can tax a person with a high degree of anxiety disorder. The undue amount of stress and anxiety they face can completely affect their work and ability to handle tasks well. It can also worsen their mental health further.
6. Is Anxiety a Disability?
As we now have a brief idea of anxiety disorders, we’re ready to answer the question.
Anxiety can interfere with a person’s basic functioning and cause difficulties in their social interactions.
6.1. How Disability Is Defined?
Merriam-Webster defines disability as “a physical or mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.”
Doubts may still arise about how mental health illnesses can be considered a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or ADA considers severe mental health illnesses to be part of disabilities, including anxiety.
6.2. Inclusion Is Important to Treat
The inclusion of mental health illnesses like depression, PTSD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), anxiety, etc., in the disabilities section is of paramount importance. It helps people suffering from mental health issues work and earn a living through accommodations in the workplace.
6.3. Social Security for Disability Benefits
They can also avail themselves of the advantages of Social Security for Disability Benefits (SSDI Benefits). There is also the provision of Social Security Disability Insurance.
- Severe mental health issues can make it impossible for the person to work and earn a living. Their well-being is secured by the ADA, which legalizes workplace accommodations that will make working comfortable for them.
- The Social Security Administration considers anxiety disorders to be part of disabilities. Hence, with strong clinical evidence of the person’s condition as proof, social security can be availed.
- The ADA also protects the employee from job discrimination concerning their psychiatric disability.
7. How Can Anxiety Be Dealt at WorkPlace
7.1. Choose What Works for You
In the case of severe anxiety disorders, employees can apply for accommodations in their workplace and tasks. People who find it difficult to be among a group of people can choose to work from home.
Presentations, business trips, staff management, and meetings are tasks the employee cannot do due to his severe anxiety. However, the ADA instructs employers to make accommodations that can make the employee do the most important tasks without being anxious.
7.2. Right to Privacy
They are entitled to the right to privacy regarding their mental health history. The employer cannot mistreat such employees based on their mental condition. This helps them return to work.
7.3. Anxiety Can Be Cured with Good Support
With a few adjustments in the workplace, people with anxiety disorders gain employment and purpose in life. Their disability doesn’t hold them back from achieving physical, mental, and financial growth in life.
Anxiety is a disability that is incredibly debilitating and difficult to cope with, without any support. However numerous techniques, hobbies, and treatments can be found for anxiety. It is curable in its early stages but becomes difficult to handle when it goes unchecked. Without proper care, there are always chances of relapses in people with severe anxiety disorders.
A good social support system and regular visits to a psychologist are essential in the recovery journey. And it’s possible now, with so many benefits, to help such people tide over hard times.
Is anxiety a disability? The answer is yes, under certain conditions. There are crippling adversities that severe anxiety can bring to the person suffering from it. Disability benefits come as a huge relief to such people.
The world becomes a better place when we change and evolve to accommodate everyone.