Is PTSD A Disability & Can You Receive Aid?

Updated October 5, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

PTSD Overview

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects the lives of around 7 to 8 million Americans each year. [1] Every day, people can experience various forms of trauma that can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. Because of this, PTSD is more common than most people think. In light of PTSD awareness month, this article will discuss why symptoms related PTSD can be a debilitating mental condition and how PTSD qualifies as a disability via medical requirements so you can get assistance for it.

Are PTSD Symptoms Keeping You From Working?

PTSD Can Cause Problems In A Person's Daily Routine

One of the most defining groups of symptoms of the conditions and can help grant you disability for PTSD is the re-experiencing ones, which include:

  • Intrusive Thoughts
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares

These re-experiencing symptoms are disabling for many people because they can interfere with everyday function, and they can happen suddenly through various triggers. Triggers can be anything that reminds a person of a traumatic event, such as words, people, objects, and even sounds and scents.

When people become triggered, they can experience flashbacks, which are involuntary and uncontrollable recollections of past events that can produce powerful responses in people and physiological effects. [2]

For someone with PTSD, flashbacks can feel incredibly realistic, and people can respond as if the traumatic event was occurring all over again, causing great distress. You might feel like you have a complete inability to avoid them. They can happen at any time, and this can cause people to try to avoid their triggers at all costs.

At night, individuals can also have recurrent nightmares, which like flashbacks, can be vivid. This can cause chronic sleep problems for people with PTSD, which can have adverse health consequences, including making bad dreams more intense.

A lack of sleep because of the disorder can cause people to underperform at school at work and can significantly impact a person's mood. This is one reason why PTSD is often comorbid with depression and other anxiety disorders, and people with the condition can also be prone to becoming irritable or having impaired concentration.

PTSD Can Interfere With Social Skills And Relationships

This disorder can make people feel irritable, aggressive, hypervigilant, or easily started, and can also cause a person to have angry outbursts, which belong to a PTSD symptom cluster known as the arousal and reactivity symptoms. [4]. They might also have marked difficulties in moving forward in life.

These symptoms can make forming and maintaining relationships with others much more difficult because they are typically constant, and unfortunately, it can push others away, especially those who are close to them and want to help.

It can create distrust between partners, and those who have experienced a traumatic event, especially sexual-related one, might have trouble being intimate with his or her significant other.

PTSD also has the potential to cause tension between others, such as with coworkers, who might not be aware that an individual has PTSD. However, if your employer is aware that you have the condition and you qualify for disability for PTSD, certain accommodations may be made to improve a person's job satisfaction.

The negative social effects of PTSD have been documented as early as school-aged children, and it can severely affect how kids interact with one another, such as playing. [5] If left untreated, this can carry on throughout adulthood and in the workplace.

PTSD Can Make A Person Feel Hopeless, Guilty, And Severely Anxious

As mentioned earlier, depression is another condition that is often found alongside PTSD because the disorder can severely impact a person's quality of life by putting limitations on it. For example, avoiding triggers can make a person feel like they cannot go through life freely; instead, they are in fear — sometimes irrational fear — most of the time. They might have intense apprehension about their day-to-day actions.

Depression and anxiety that are associated with PTSD are contributors to unemployment and underemployment rates. For those who manage to work, the disorder can cause individuals to struggle to meet work-related deadlines and others demands and can lead to higher absenteeism, especially for visits to the doctor. [6] Others may experience physical conditions, like muscle tension, headaches, or increased blood pressure.

Because PTSD, depression, and anxiety can be destructive and be a roadblock to a person's success, it can also lead to another issue - substance use and dependency. Compared to those without PTSD, an investigation from the Epidemiologic Catchment Area showed that men with the disorder were five times more likely to have abused drugs, whereas women were 1.4 times more probable to engage in it. [7]

Additionally, another sample from the National Comorbidity Study demonstrated that approximately 52 percent of men and 28 percent of women met the criteria for lifetime alcohol abuse and dependency. [7]

Unfortunately, the negative feelings that come with PTSD can put a person at risk of suicide as well. An older study from 1991 that documented 100 Vietnam veterans showed that 19 of them had made an attempt on their own lives, and an additional 15 more former soldiers had suicidal ideation after the war ended. In addition to PTSD, depression, and anxiety, these soldiers cited guilt as being a factor in their reasoning. [8]

Guilt is a common manifestation in PTSD, and survivors of any traumatic situation, not just war, might blame themselves for the event, which can contribute to the challenges that people with PTSD face on a daily basis.

Can You Get Disability For PTSD?

PTSD is, without a doubt, a disabling condition for millions of people, and because of this, it is possible to qualify for aid from the government if you meet the requirements via a disability application.

Like being diagnosed with PTSD, and needing to meet the minimum symptoms, the SSA also has its own set of requirements to satisfy for being considered disabled. Also, like DSM-5, PTSD is categorized in the Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders group in the SSA Blue Book, and according to Section 12.15 within it, the criteria goes as follows [9]:

Are PTSD Symptoms Keeping You From Working?

Options

  1. Provide sufficient medical documentation (which could include clinic notes) of all of the following:
    1. Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence;
    2. Subsequent involuntary re-experiencing of the traumatic event (for example, intrusive memories, dreams, or flashbacks);
    3. Avoidance of external reminders of the event;
    4. Disturbance in mood and behavior; and
    5. Increases in arousal and reactivity (for example, exaggerated startle response, sleep disturbance).

AND

  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information
    2. Interact with others
    3. Concentrate, persist or maintain pace
    4. Adapt or manage oneself

OR

  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is "serious and persistent;" that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least two years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and
    2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.

It is important to clarify that, to qualify for disability for PTSD, you must have been diagnosed by a doctor beforehand; however, chances are, if you've been diagnosed, you will satisfy the SSA requirements as well.

Additionally, if you are a veteran of the U.S military, you can also apply for assistance with the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs, and you must be able to confirm that [10]:

  • The stressor happened during your service, and
  • You can't function as well as you once could because of your symptoms, and
  • A doctor has diagnosed you with PTSD

Qualifications

The VA states that qualifying traumatic events are if you "experienced a serious injury, personal or sexual trauma, or sexual violation, or you were threatened with injury, sexual assault, or death." [10]

If either of these departments determines that you qualify for disability, you can be provided with compensation/living allowance as well as helping you get treatment for your PTSD.

However, PTSD disability living allowance may vary from person-to-person; for example, the VA department rates disability on a percentage scale to determine how severe one's disability and how much allowance they will be granted. In total, there are six different possible ratings a person can receive.

Therefore, with the VA criteria, it is possible to have a diagnosis of PTSD, yet, still be rated a 0 on the scale, and unfortunately, will not receive a monthly check for disability for PTSD because the symptoms do not prevent you from working. Nonetheless, even if you are still on the lower end of the spectrum, you still can be granted some financial compensation. [11] Some people may reach out to a disability attorney, where they can be assured of attorney-client confidentiality with their case.

Conclusion

Treatment Options

If you are one of the approximately 8 million people in the United States who are living with PTSD and are struggling to make ends meet because of this mental illness, disability is an option for you.

However, if you have not yet received a diagnosis from your primary doctor or a mental health professional, it is essential that you do that before applying for disability for PTSD since they require medical records of your condition over an extended duration of time.

If you happen to have applied for aid; but the SSA or VA agencies have determined that you can still work and perform other essential functions, but you still are affected by this disorder on a daily basis, therapy is always an option, and people have effectively learned how to manage their symptoms through techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Online Therapy

BetterHelp offers online therapy and counseling sessions for all mental conditions, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Providers on BetterHelp.com cannot prescribe medication, but here you can acquire the skills you need to cope with PTSD at a reasonable pace. Working with a therapist, you will learn skills to address your fears and how you can respond to them. You might also pick up practical personal skills you can carry with you in the future.

If you've been wondering "is PTSD a disability?" or you were curious if and how you can get assistance, hopefully, this article has been informative and has answered all of your questions. To learn more about PTSD and other mental health topics, please visit BetterHelp's advice section, where you can find more educational articles just like this one.

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

Speak With A Licensed PTSD Therapist Today
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