Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a pattern of apprehension, anxiety, and stress. Symptoms include constant worry, irritability, insomnia, tiredness, an easy startle reflex, and difficulty focusing. While it is a common disorder in the United States, for some people generalized anxiety has serious effects on their life, work, and social functioning. Social Security will grant disability benefits for very serious cases of anxiety that make it impossible for someone to work. To separate out these more serious cases, Social Security will look to see if your medical record contains documentation of at least three of the following:
- Excessive worrying that bad things might occur
- Rapid heartbeat, sweating, and dry mouth
- Shaking, quivering, or trembling, and/or
- Constantly being on the alert for perceived threats.
These symptoms must cause you difficulty in several areas of functioning, such as your activities of daily living, social functioning, or ability to focus. In addition, your anxiety must prevent you from performing substantial work activity (each year Social Security established a monthly earnings amount that it considers to be substantial gainful activity or SGA) for 12 months or must be expected to prevent you from working for 12 continuous months.
If an individual with generalized anxiety does not meet the requirements of the anxiety impairment listing (listed above), he or she may still be awarded disability benefits through a medical-vocational allowance. If an individual's generalized anxiety is so severe that it prevents them from performing any of their past relevant work or any other type of work, they may be awarded disability benefits. Social Security disability examiners consider an individual's age, education, work history, and functional capacity when they make medical-vocational determinations. For more information, see our general article on disability and anxiety disorders.