Is PTSD A Disability: Navigating Severe Symptoms
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.
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:
Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s).
Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
Some commonly asked questions about post-traumatic stress disorder in relation to disability benefits include the following.
How do you prove you have PTSD?
When you apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration, they will require you to prove through medical records and medical evidence that you have severe symptoms that makes your PTSD qualify for a disability claim.
You must prove that your condition causes extreme limitations that impede your social functioning and prevents you from working. Such symptoms could be severe panic attacks daily, autonomic hyperactivity, and worsening psychiatric symptoms.
Social security medical listing benefits are meant for those who cannot work at all or can only work a limited amount. Cash benefits are sent to those who qualify. However, it is difficult to get approved for a disability claim based on stressor-related disorders. Your medical evidence will need to be convincing and accurate, from your initial claims. Psychiatric hospital records for any stays related to your PTSD can help.
If you end up going to a hearing for your Social Security disability claim, you will also have to find a disability lawyer to help you prove your disability. Your lawyer will make sure your PTSD is properly medically documented for the judge.
Many attorneys offer a free consultation to get to know if their services work for your case. An attorney advertising for disability rights cases can speak to you about how your PTSD symptoms impact your work life and why you are requesting PTSD disability benefits. Remember, you have a trustworthy relationship with your attorney once you work together, so anything you tell them or offer to them will not be told outside of court or without your permission.
Can you work with PTSD?
Working while experiencing PTSD symptoms is possible. No matter if your PTSD was due to a natural disaster, general traumatic experience, a post-traumatic stress injury, childhood abuse, or veterans’ affairs, you can find a way to continue maintaining social functioning and practice personal skills to be able to enter the workforce.
In some cases, symptoms of PTSD such as generalized persistent anxiety, frequent panic attacks, and the inability to react in socially appropriate ways can make it hard to find work. If you want to work and do not wish to apply for PTSD disability benefits, it is possible.
As a traumatic stress disorder, PTSD can make it hard to focus, trust, and feel safe. However, with the proper trained mental health professional on your side, it is 100% possible to treat PTSD and find relief.
Is it hard to get PTSD disability?
Getting disability benefits for PTSD is not easy for everyone. Depending on your medical records and the social security case that you build, your case may be easier to approve than others. If you have other mental health conditions like an anxiety disorder, this can also increase your chances of receiving Social Security disability benefits.
Properly medically documented symptoms and records are the best way to get Social Security disability benefits. If you develop PTSD after applying for Social Security or SSDI benefits for a different reason, you can also submit new evidence. However, this should be done before you get to the court-hearing stage. Otherwise, the only thing that constitutes acceptance in your case will be the initially submitted documents that you brought to your attorney.
PTSD disability claims are often approved for a medical-vocational allowance only. A medical-vocational allowance allows you to gain cash benefits from Social Security, even if you do not qualify 100% as disabled under their Bluebook rules.
If you have more questions about the Social Security disability process, do a zip code search for government agencies in your area that hold social security disability interviews and take applications.
- S Department of Veteran Affairs. (2018, September 13). How Common is PTSD in Adults? Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp
- Brewin, C. R. (2015). Re-experiencing traumatic events in PTSD: New avenues in research on intrusive memories and flashbacks. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 6(1), 27180. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v6.27180
- Aurora, R. N., Zak, R. S., Auerbach, S. H., Casey, K. R., Chowdhuri, S., Karripot, A., . . . Morgenthaler, T. I. (2010). Best Practice Guide for the Treatment of Nightmare Disorder in Adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 6(4). Retrieved from https://aasm.org/resources/bestpracticeguides/nightmaredisorder.pdf.
- National Institute of Mental Health. (2019, May). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
- Kjorstad, M., Ohare, S., Soseman, K., Spellman, C., & Thomas, P. (2005). The Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Children's Social Skills and Occupation of Play [Abstract]. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health,21(1), 39-56. doi:10.1300/j004v21n01_03
- Clarner A, Graessel E, Scholz J, Niedermeier A, Uter W, Drexler H. Work-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional diseases as consequence of traumatic events in public transportation: a systematic review. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2015 Jul;88(5):549-64.
- Brady, K. T., Back, S. E., & Coffey, S. F. (2004). Substance Abuse and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Current Directions In Psychological Science, 13(5), 206-209. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.825.3022&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Suicide and guilt as manifestations of PTSD in Vietnam combat veterans. (1991). American Journal of Psychiatry,148(5), 586-591. doi:10.1176/ajp.148.5.586
- Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Disability Evaluation Under Social Security. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm#12_15
- S Department of Veteran Affairs. (n.d.). VA Disability Compensation For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/ptsd/
- Chisholm, Chisholm, and Kirpatrick. (n.d.). Getting VA Disability Benefits for PTSD. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://cck-law.com/types-of-va-disabilities/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/
Can a person with PTSD live a normal life?
What qualifies as a disability for PTSD?
Is PTSD a serious condition?
What jobs are good for people with PTSD?
Does PTSD mean I'm disabled?
How much disability is PTSD?
Can PTSD cause memory loss?
How does PTSD affect your life?
What is the best lifestyle for PTSD?
How do you treat people with PTSD?
Can people with PTSD get better?
How do you prove you have PTSD?