This article will answer the most asked question: Is PTSD a disability?
Mental health is the psychological fitness state of our mind. It includes how we think, feel or interact. It is not just a psychological effect but also the social and emotional responsiveness of our brain in a society. It also determines our decisiveness and stress handling ability.
Mental health is important at every stage and phase of life, be it childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Not having a good mental health state indicates a person suffering from multiple disorders, and if turned severe, then might as well be termed as a disability.
So, is PTSD a disability as well?
If one experiences mental health issues throughout their life, mood and behavior are logically known to be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including biological factors, natural disasters, sexual trauma, childhood abuse, threatened death events, serious life events, or traumatic life experiences.
Before answering the question “is PTSD a disability” let us first understand what PTSD is.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a psychiatric or mental health condition/disorder that occurs in people who have in the past experienced or witnessed a traumatic event arising out of a serious accident or serious injury, loss of a close one, sexual assault, violence, or death.
PTSD is also popularly named ‘shell shock.’ People diagnosed with PTSD are likely to have homicidal thoughts and feelings related to the experience that has brought them in such a traumatic situation.
They may relieve the moment through impaired concentration, flashbacks, or nightmares, which may cause them to distance themselves from people and live an isolated style of life.
Today, the burning question is: Is PTSD a disability?
People with PTSD avoid people and situations that might remind them of the traumatic event. They also tend to develop strong negative reactions towards objects, loud noises, or accidental touch that remind them of the trauma.
It is common to feel negative and develop fear towards such flashbacks and memories. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against dangers.
This fight or flight mode of the body is a typical response meant to protect a person from harm. A range of reactions can be expected from a person undergoing traumatic experiences. Some tend to recover naturally, while others often face it, which might continue towards PTSD.
Symptoms usually tend to appear early, within three months of the traumatic event experienced. In some cases, they may tend to appear after a few years of the incident. To be considered the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, the PTSD symptoms must last for no less than a month and cause interruptions in relationships with people or in work.
Some people tend to recover within six months, while some continue towards longer durations leading to chronic disorder.
To be diagnosed with PTSD, these PTSD symptoms must appear for a month:
- At least one re-experience of the traumatic event.
- At least one avoiding reaction
- Arousal or reactivity symptoms
- Cognition and mood symptoms.
- Frightening thoughts
- Severe panic attacks
These symptoms arise out of one’s own self-thought and expression. The words, objects, or situations that remind of the traumatic episode might activate the re-experiencing symptoms.
- Avoiding or staying away from places, events, or objects that trigger the traumatic experience memory.
- Avoid feelings and thoughts of the traumatic memory.
These PTSD symptoms tend to change one’s routine.
Arousal and reactivity symptoms:
- Angry outbursts
- Sleeping issues
- Tensed or mood swings
- Quirky nerves
It makes it hard for one to do simple tasks. They may not be related to a traumatic event but get developed regularly.
Cognition and mood symptoms:
- Loss of interest
- Negative thoughts
- Impaired feelings
They tend to worsen the effects of a traumatic event. They make one go alienated and detached from people around them.
It is natural and okay to have such symptoms after facing a shocking or dangerous incident. But if these continue for more than a month, the person might be under the terms of PTSD.
The best time for PTSD treatment is as soon as you rectify your symptoms and report to the psychological counselor or psychiatrist. The treatment might include psychology and therapy sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, or medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs.
Eye movement processing and desensitization are some of the rising curative methods, as NIMH stated.
Now that you know what PTSD is and what are the associated symptoms, let’s get back to the main question, “is PTSD a disability?”
Is PTSD a disability?
PTSD is generally not considered a disability, but if the disorder turns severe or chronic, this might lead to it being stated as a disability. Initially, when a person has PTSD, they are not disabled. Still, if the symptoms begin to interfere with their interaction with society or the workplace, it can be called a disability.
Dealing with PTSD is not as easy as something to get done away with. Every individual is different, and the hurdles are unique to every individual.
PTSD puts you at risk of developing other problems such as depression, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, suicide, and medical disorders such as chronic pain and heart disease.
So, as the state of PTSD begins to develop, your answer to the question “is PTSD a disability” can change to yes.
Is PTSD a Disability: PTSD disability Benefits
There are various disability benefits of PTSD, which can be summed up as the following:
- Veterans disability benefits
- Employer or private-sponsored disability insurance
- Social security disability insurance
Social security includes symptoms of PTSD in the social security listings of impairments of mental health disorders. Anxiety symptoms are essential in determining how PTSD has turned to affect you.
A medical practitioner should be consulted to determine the severity of PTSD and whether it can help you avail of social security benefits. Documentation of behavior is a must in this aspect, whether from your psychologist, psychiatrist, or family and friends.
This can help you maintain an official record.
- Maintenance of a detailed journal that would contain the daily activities of the person affected with PTSD disability.
- Maintainance of a record of the activities one could not be able to do in their daily routine.
- Keep a detailed history of your current and past medications and any side effects that you experience.
- See a healthcare professional regularly and take the medication they give you to support your application for benefits.
- Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, unusual behavior, or other hard-to-document symptoms.
- Maintainance of the unusual symptoms or indication record that one might experience on their own.
PTSD effect on the body system:
A person with PTSD undergoes changes that affect the autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, and neural system. Large amounts of inflammatory hormones are secreted into the body.
For a person with PTSD, these hormones can be released with the traumatic memory, causing emotional anxiety. People with PTSD may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares and feel sad, fearful, or angry.
Some may develop the feelings to get detached from others and avoid situations that remind them of the tragic event. Others may react negatively to loud noises or being promptly touched.
To qualify for social security disability, two categories need to be satisfied as determined by Social Security Administration.
The first category is WORK Requirements:
- The duration of the work test determines whether one has worked long enough to develop social security.
- The Current Work Test: Whether you worked recently enough for the work to count toward coverage.
The Second category is MEDICAL ELIGIBILITY requirements:
- Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed, this does not mean you cannot get a disability, and it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did before developing the condition.
- If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made on whether you can perform any other kind of work.
Disability benefits can be a beneficiary source of income for those who cannot work due to PTSD. If you cannot work due to an accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits.
When you encounter PTSD, it might feel like the life you had or what you imagined it to be like has been lost. But it can be treated. As often seen, short and long-term psychotherapy at the same time can give much better results.
PTSD therapy has certain main goals:
- Improve PTSD symptoms
- Teach skills to deal with it
- Restoration of self-esteem
Mostly falling under the umbrella of CBT (Cognitive-behavioral Therapy), the idea behind this is to examine the person’s thought process and deal with the traumatic events. Sometimes family therapy sessions are considered a better option than individual ones.
1. Cognitive Processing Therapy :
It is a 12-week course of treatment, with weekly sessions of 60-90 minutes. The psychologist will discuss and talk about the traumatic event in a non-harmful way and help you examine the thought process and pattern. They will help you figure out ways to live with it.
2. Prolonged exposure Therapy:
It is a 90-minute long session, 15 in number. It is best for those PTSD people who have developed the avoidance symptoms severely. The psychologist teaches you breathing techniques to calm your quirky nerves, ease anxiety and regain stability. Later they help you make a list of things you avoid and help you learn ways to face them and deal with them.
3. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing:
This therapy might not involve talking about the traumatic experience. Instead, one is asked to focus and concentrate on the activities they have been doing. The goal is reigniting positivity within the person seeking therapy.
4. Stress Inoculation Training:
It is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It focuses more on changing thoughts over the stress from the traumatic experiences. Massage, breathing techniques, and other negative thoughts are dealt with under the relaxation of mind and body.
The neurotransmitter, a chemical of the brain, goes imbalanced. They have a fight or flight response which makes one jumpy and on edge. Medications inhibit the thinking processes and reactions to what happened, including both nightmares and flashbacks.
They help regain a positive outlook and develop a normal feeling. Several types of drugs affect the chemistry in your brain related to fear, generalized persistent anxiety, and mental disorders.
Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and epinephrine are medically balanced first by the doctors.
Some medication includes:
Medication cannot get rid of symptoms but can make the trauma less intense and more manageable.
Is PTSD a Disability: Final Thoughts
By now, you must have realized that the answer to the question “is PTSD a disability” is not a simple yes or no. There are various factors and conditions associated with this. If you go by technical terms, PTSD in itself is not a disability.
However, suppose the symptoms of PTSD cross a certain level of severity that affects a person’s ability to function normally in society or the workplace. In that case, PTSD can be considered a disability.
So, it is important to understand the difference between PTSD being a disability and not. From person to person, the severity of PTSD disability can differ. So, one can not say for sure how long a person will be affected.
For the disability, as we have mentioned earlier, one can get a few benefits. However, qualifying for the benefits might not be easy. We have mentioned three forms of benefits, out of which Social Security Benefit is the most common.
To qualify for social security benefits, a PTSD patient must have certain symptoms. And once the symptoms are met, an application for the same can be filed. However, it is important to note that social security application gets denied very easily due to technical errors or missing information.
So always be careful while filling out the application.
I hope this article on “is PTSD a disability: causes, symptoms, and treatments” helped you better understand post-traumatic stress disorder.
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Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.