Is PTSD a Disability? 7 Interesting Facts to Know

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is often considered a disability by the masses. But what is PTSD and “Is PTSD a disability?” and how can one change this common notion?

After suffering a major loss or any stressful or traumatic event or experience like a bomb blast, natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence, or serious injury, a person’s mind tends to attach itself to the negative and hateful feeling of that particular episode which in turn causes sleep disorders, nightmares, insomnia, etc.

This is very common in today’s world. According to a survey, about 5.2 million Americans are prone to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder1 every year.

Women are more prone to suffer PTSD than men since they are more vulnerable to cases of rape, violence, abuse, etc.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder. It affects your mental health. Many famous web series also talk about post-traumatic stress disorder and how it disturbs people’s lives, and with time, people are becoming more aware and seeking help to fight this problem.

Let us learn more about PTSD in detail further.

1. What Is a Disability?

A disability is any severe or non-severe condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities and interact with the world around them.

Disabilities can be divided into four major disability categories: visual impairments, hearing impairments, motor impairments, and cognitive impairments.

Visual impairment, popularly known as vision impairment or vision loss, is a decreased ability to see to the degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses. Some also include those who have a decreased ability to see because they do not have access to glasses or contact lenses.

Hearing impaired can mean you are partly or completely unable to hear from one or both of your ears.

Motor impairment is the partial or total loss of function of a body part, usually a limb or limb. This may result in muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control, or total paralysis.

Cognitive disability (or intellectual disability) is a nebulous term describing a person with greater mental task difficulty than the average person. Cognitive disabilities are by far the most common type of disability2.

2. Symptoms of PTSD

The major symptoms of PTSD fall into four main categories. A person affected with at least one symptom from all four categories is considered a victim of PTSD.

The four main categories are:

2.1. Re-Experiencing or Intrusion

A person has flashbacks of his/her traumatic experience again and again. Sometimes it feels like the person relives the incident repeatedly in a spiral. Mental health is completely disturbed.

There are instances when the person suddenly goes blank in the middle of a conversation when he or she revisits the horrible memory of their trauma.

The flashbacks look very real as if the person is experiencing the whole thing in front of his or her eyes.

These thoughts are intrusive and involuntary. You can suddenly revisit the horrible traumatic memory at any moment of the day, maybe in the middle of an important meeting or a conference or even while sitting with your family members.

Scary nightmares and upsetting dreams are also a part of this category. Sometimes, contact with any detail or part of the traumatic event may cause terrible distress or physical reactions.

Like in the cases of assault, many women start to feel uncomfortable around males in general. In some cases, even standing close to males, in general, can cause extreme emotional or physical distress.

2.2. Avoidance

People try to hide from the external world. They avoid talking about that incident. Being close to any minor or major detail of that traumatic event can be severe enough. People usually try and avoid going to the place where the incident occurred. They shut themselves up from the world.

2.3. Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

A person is easily startled and is mostly jumpy. The person feels tense all the time. Sometimes, people cannot remember important aspects of the traumatic event. They start to blame themselves for everything that’s happened.

They always think that it was their fault, and in some way, they could’ve made things better or avoided things from happening. Many face difficulty sleeping at night. People get angry easily and have massive anger outbursts.

People are also unable to experience any positive thoughts or events. All their dreams and hopes about the future seem to vanish. They also suffer from commitment issues. They are not able to engage in a healthy close relationship with anyone.

Over time they also start feeling detached from their friends, family and loved ones. They feel emotionally numb and in pain mostly.

2.4. Cognition or Mood Symptoms

In this category, people are mainly unable to remember many event details. Negative thoughts about the self and world crowd a person’s mind. They start feeling sad and guilty all the time.

People also tend to lose interest in any or all enjoyable activities. They start feeling dull and lonely.

Many are not able to concentrate on day-to-day activities. People always tend to keep their guard. Some also indulge in self-destructive activities like smoking, drinking, etc.

2.4.1. Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms include headaches, chest pain, sweating, shaking, dizziness, stomach problems, aches or pains, etc. A person’s immune system becomes weak, and thus they start catching infections early. Insomnia and disorders in sleeping can cause day-long tiredness etc.

If you keep experiencing such symptoms for more than a month, then you should surely go and see a doctor. Experiencing above mentioned symptoms for two or three weeks is normal.

2.4.2. Do Children Face Different Symptoms?

Children face many experiences which are similar to the experiences faced by adults. They Also Face Some Special Symptoms Like

  1. Bedwetting
  2. Losing their ability to talk
  3. Having an emotional episode while playing
  4. Always trying to stick with parents
  5. Avoid going anywhere
  6. Refusing to sleep alone or be alone in general
  7. Not showing interest in school or any other activity

Children may also become disrespectful and revengeful.

3. Risk factors

There are cases when many people do not get PTSD, even after experiencing a traumatic experience. Some can develop the symptoms of PTSD even after being in a very acutely traumatic incident.

3.1. Incidents That Can Increase the Chances of Getting the Symptoms of Ptsd

  1. Losing a loved one after an event
  2. Not getting any emotional support after an event
  3. Having a history of medical health problems or substance use
  4. Experience of abuse or assault
  5. Having poor physical or emotional health before or as a result of a traumatic event
  6. Having parents or ancestors suffering from PTSD or anxiety disorders.

3.1. What Reduces the Risk?

Scientists, doctors, and psychiatrists are still working on this topic. Some suggest talking to people, seeking support, and making and following proper coping strategies.

Any proper methods that can be useful in reducing risk are still being processed and researched.

4. When Should We Consult a Doctor?

If you face symptoms like crying, anxiety or depression after a traumatic event, then it is necessarily not PTSD, it is very common, and you’re out of danger.

Urgent treatment by a professional therapist or doctor can prevent the symptoms from worsening.

4.1. This Prompt Treatment Should Be Undertaken When:

  1. The symptoms remain for more than a month
  2. The person starts to harm himself/herself
  3. Living a normal life becomes difficult

5. Can I Heal Without a Doctor?

The healing journey can be extremely difficult and painful, but nothing is impossible. It is important to realize that although it may take some time, you can improve with treatment. If you are unsure where to seek help, ask a doctor or therapist immediately.

5.1. To Help Yourself While in Treatment

  1. Talk with your doctor about treatment and healing options
  2. Engage in physical activity or exercise to help reduce stress
  3. Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself
  4. Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities
  5. Try to spend time with other people. Tell others about things that may trigger symptoms.
  6. Expect your symptoms to improve gradually, not immediately
  7. Identify and seek out comforting situations, places, and people
  8. Don’t rush; give your body enough time to heal properly
  9. The healing process may take time, so don’t panic and get disappointed.

Caring for yourself and others is especially important when many people are exposed to traumatic events (such as natural disasters, accidents, and violent acts).

If you decide to visit the doctor, he will engage you in many treatments like talk therapy, massages, etc. In severe cases, a person is also supposed to take some medications.

6. What Is Social Security?

Social Security is used for the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program in the United States, run by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a federal agency.

Though best known for retirement benefits, it also provides survivor benefits and disability income.

Social Security works by collecting mandatory contributions from workers into a large pot and then paying out benefits to eligible workers. When you work, you pay into the system by having a portion of your earnings taxed and saved for Social Security.

7. What Is Social Security Disability Insurance?

The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide monetary benefits to people with disabilities. While these two programs differ in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration.

Only individuals with a disability who have proven through their medical records that they meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

It benefits you and a few family members if you are “insured,” meaning you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

8. So, Is PTSD a Disability?

Is PTSD a Disability
Image Source: Zoomarket/ DepositPhotos

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can become disabling and interfere with a person’s daily functioning and ability to work. PTSD at a minor level is not considered to be a disability. Still, if PTSD starts interfering with your ability to work and do daily tasks, then it gets qualified as a disability.

PTSD, in general, comes under cognitive impairment mostly.

It is possible to get a 50 per cent disability rating for PTSD, but there is no automatic rating for any condition and no automatic disability rating that applies to all veterans. Veterans with PTSD can receive a rating as low as zero per cent for the condition.

Also, the symptoms of PTSD that may qualify you for Social Security disability can be difficult to prove; hence many genuine cases sometimes cannot receive any monetary benefits.

Regardless, a person, for his or her mental stability, should not consider PTSD as a disability. You’re not disabled; you’re just unable to work properly and function effectively because of a traumatic experience. Life will get better, and you will surely heal.

Whatever you had to face, it was not your fault. You cannot do anything to improve it now, and it will be better if you move on.

Of course, moving on will not be easy but don’t worry; you’ll be able to do it. Reach out to good professionals, take proper medications, go for regular therapies, and soon you’ll realize that you’ve healed and life is normal and beautiful again.

You may feel tired, but trust me when you’re done with the process, the results will be brilliant with all the therapies, massages, exercises, medications, etc. Always remember that you were given this life because you can live it. So, don’t give up; keep fighting!

Is PTSD a disability?

  1. McFarlane, Alexander C., et al. “Physical symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder.” Journal of psychosomatic research 38.7 (1994): 715-726. ↩︎
  2. Courtney-Long, Elizabeth A., et al. “Prevalence of disability and disability type among adults—United States, 2013.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 64.29 (2015): 777. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Amiradha Satsangi
  1. Who knew learning about PTSD and disability could be this informative? Remember, healing takes time, and reaching out for support is a courageous step. Let’s break the stigma, one fact at a time!

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