FREE MENTAL HEALTH ASSESSMENT. start here
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Both depression and anxiety affect a large number of Americans each year. Data from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) finds that about 8.4 percent of adults in the United States deal with at least one depressive episode on a yearly basis.
As for anxiety, it’s thought that about 40 million Americans over the age of 18 deal with an anxiety disorder.
If you’ve ever dealt with either of these conditions, you know just how severely they can impact your life. Some people even find it difficult to do basic things — like manage work projects or run daily errands — when they’re dealing with depression and anxiety.
This difficulty in navigating your everyday life may make you wonder if you can get disability for anxiety and depression. Simply put, you may wonder: is anxiety a disability?
We’ll cut right to the chase: Both anxiety and depression are mental health disorders that, if severe enough, are considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Not familiar with the ADA? It became a law in 1990 and is meant to protect individuals with disabilities from facing discrimination in various areas of life, including at work, in schools and on public forms of transportation.
But going on disability is slightly different than having a disability under the ADA. To go on disability at work — which means your job is protected and you may even get paid — you have to have a disability that falls under the Social Security Act.
This act defines a disability as something so severe that it prevents that person from doing their job. Often, people think of medical conditions in relationship to going on disability, though some mental health conditions do count.
It is possible to get disability for anxiety and depression if they seriously impact your ability to do your job.
With an anxiety disorder, people tend to feel way more stress and nervousness than the average person. A common anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People are diagnosed with GAD if they feel more anxious than not over the course of six or more months.
Symptoms of GAD include a fast heart rate, fatigue, irritability, sleep issues, stomach problems and more. These feelings can paralyze you and make it extremely difficult to do everyday things.
Other types of anxiety disorders include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder and panic disorder (often called panic attacks). Like GAD, all of these come with both emotional and physical anxiety symptoms that can make it difficult to accomplish daily activities.
Depression can also hinder your daily life. Like with anxiety, there are different depressive disorders. But when most people talk about depression, they’re talking about major depression (also called major depressive disorder).
Depression is defined as a mental health condition that negatively impacts the way you feel and act. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad, having low energy, sleep disturbances, no longer enjoying things you once did and more. If these symptoms are extreme enough, you may have trouble completing tasks in your daily life.
So, the answer to the question of whether you can get disability for depression and anxiety is maybe. If you have a severe form of either of these conditions and they cause mental or physical impairment, then you might be able to file a disability claim, if you can prove to the Social Security office that this impairment makes it difficult or impossible to do your job duties.
But what does it even mean to receive disability benefits? You can get Social Security Disability Insurance if you’ve worked in jobs where you have paid Social Security taxes on whatever you’ve earned. This means you are “insured.”
If you have a disability and meet the above requirements, you can then apply for disability benefits if you have a medical condition that is expected to last for at least a year. This money is meant to help you live while you cannot work.
To receive Social Security disability payments, you’ll need to prove that you have a mental health or physical condition that prohibits you from earning income on your own. You may need to provide medical evidence confirming your condition and medical records that show you’ve sought treatment or help for your depression or anxiety.
You may also need a healthcare provider to comment on how your depression or anxiety — and the emotional and physical symptoms that come along with it — impacts everyday activities.
For example, maybe you have a type of anxiety disorder that conjures up irrational fear that makes it difficult to commute to work. Or you have OCD and engage in repetitive behaviors that make it hard to get a project done.
If you’ve sought out mental health therapy for conditions like depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder or others, this could serve as your medical record to apply for Social Security benefits.
Now that we’ve answered the question of whether you can get disability for anxiety, you need to think about how to get those benefits.
There is a formal process for applying. You will need to go to Social Security’s website to fill out an application.
On the application, you’ll need to fill out basic information like your place of birth, marital status, employer details and more. Then, you’ll have to include the following:
Names of medical professionals you’ve seen — including a mental health professional, if you’ve seen one
Medical treatment you’ve undergone for your anxiety or depression, such as psychotherapy or another type of mental health therapy
Any other pertinent info about your condition, like how it leads to mental impairment at work or affects social functioning or routine activities
Once you submit your application, you’ll be able to log in to the website to see the status of your application. If you get approved, you will start to receive payment. On average, people on disability get approximately $1,234 per month to cover their expenses while they’re unable to work due to anxiety, depression or some other condition.
Remember, you will have to prove that your anxiety or depression deeply impacts your mental functioning. You’ll have to show that you can’t participate in major life activities and, therefore, need support.
The good news is, it is possible to get disability for anxiety and depression if you follow the above steps.
If you’d like to seek help for your anxiety or depression or are looking for guidance from a mental health professional, Hers offers online therapy services that can help.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.
Start your mental wellness journey today.