Is PTSD A Disability: Navigating Severe Symptoms

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated March 29, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD has been heavily associated with military service in the recent past, advancements in psychology and increased mental health awareness among the general public have expanded the knowledge that PTSD can occur for a number of reasons. 

Living a full and happy life with PTSD is possible through treatment, but it is not uncommon for some symptoms to interfere with a person’s ability to perform certain tasks. In this article, we will explore some of the more severe symptoms of PTSD and what to do if living with them has become debilitating for you or a loved one. 

Are PTSD Symptoms Disrupting Your Life?

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is classified fairly well by its name; an ongoing stress disorder following a traumatic event. While there are many instances that can result in trauma in a person’s life, there is a certain criteria for these events regarding the diagnosis of PTSD. 

According to the National Library Of Medicine, this criterion is described as exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one (or more) of the following ways:

  1. Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s).

  2. Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others.

  3. Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family or close friend. In cases of actual or threatened death of a family relative or friend, the event(s) must have been violent or accidental.

  4. Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s). (Note: This does not apply to exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures unless this exposure is work-related.)

Examples of traumatic or terrifying events that meet this criterion are living through a natural disaster, being involved in a car accident, losing a friend or family in a violent or accidental way, witnessing other people getting hurt or killed, traumatic childbirth, or experiencing any situation where you have feared for your life. 

Additionally, serving as a first responder, police officer, military personnel or any doing any type of work that repeatedly exposes a person to violence, human remains, or other horrific events are included in this criteria. 

Typically, symptoms of PTSD will present within a month of experiencing a traumatic or terrifying event, but in some cases, they may not appear or interfere with a person’s daily life until years later. 

While PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types that include: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions, they tend to vary over time and from person to person. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of PTSD may include the following. 

Symptoms of intrusive memories such as: 

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event

  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)

  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event

  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event

  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world

  • Hopelessness about the future

  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event

  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships

  • Feeling detached from family and friends

  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions

  • Feeling emotionally numb

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions may include:

  • Being easily startled or frightened

  • Always being on guard for danger

  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior

  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

The nature of PTSD is complex and often ever-changing. Someone living with PTSD may experience only some of the above symptoms, some of the time. Determining whether symptoms of PTSD have become debilitating for you or a loved one is best done with the help of a professional. 

Navigating Severe Symptoms Of PTSD

PTSD and its various symptoms can often lead to severe disruptions in a person’s ability to work, maintain relationships, and so on. If you or a loved one is experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD, it is best to reach out to a doctor or qualified mental health professional.

It is important to note that a formal PTSD diagnosis can be extremely helpful in the matters of seeking both treatment and financial assistance if there is a need.  

Is PTSD A Disability? 

While there are a variety of treatment methods that can be utilized in the treatment of PTSD, severe symptoms can often be debilitating for those living with the condition, with or without treatment. 

In short, PTSD is considered an entirely valid disability.

If symptoms of PTSD have interfered with your ability to work or maintain a living, you may qualify for assistance through the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs if you have previously served in the U.S. military. 

It is important to note that the majority of available assistance for PTSD will require a professional medical diagnosis. A list of required medical documentation to apply for PTSD-related disability can be found through the U.S. Social Security Administration website

Benefits Of Online Therapy

If you are living with debilitating symptoms of PTSD, it is often crucial to seek both a formal diagnosis and professional treatment. As the process of seeking help often feels overwhelming to many, online therapy may serve as a great place to start the process. 

Online therapy tends to provide a more plausible option to receive guidance from a mental health professional from the comfort of your own home. 

Are PTSD Symptoms Disrupting Your Life?

The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

According to research, online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or “talk therapy” is proven to be equally as effective as in-person therapy when it comes to the reduction of symptoms of certain mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. 

Additionally, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often utilized in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


If you are living with debilitating symptoms of PTSD, you are not alone. It is important to remember that your experience is valid and help is available. If you are unsure of where to start in the process of receiving treatment or disability aid, it may be helpful to contact your doctor or mental health professional for further guidance. 

You Don't Have To Face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Alone.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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