Can I Get Disability Benefits if Agoraphobia Keeps Me From Leaving My House?

Agoraphobia involves a person’s fear of experiencing anxiety and panic attacks in public places.

Question

I am an agoraphobe and I hate leaving my house. I had to stop the medication I was using because it gave me panic attacks, and I had to quit my job because I just couldn't go in. Can I get disability benefits?

Answer

Agoraphobia is a mental impairment that fits within the category of  anxiety disorders. Agoraphobia involves a person’s fear of experiencing  anxiety  and  panic attacks  in public places. Those who suffer from agoraphobia are extremely aware of bodily sensations, such as increased heart rate. In normal scenarios and situations, they are less likely to subconsciously overreact, but when they feel insecure or trapped, agoraphobics can have severe panic attacks. These attacks also happen when a patient with agoraphobia feels out of control or out of their comfort zone (such as their home).

Agoraphobia can be thought of as an adverse behavioral effect that results from the repeat occurrence of panic attacks but also from  worry, avoidance, and preoccupation. Avoidance of public places is the main mechanism for coping for individuals who suffer from agoraphobia;  consequently, an individual may become homebound.  

You can get disability benefits if your agoraphobia results in frequent panic attacks that are followed by worry about more panic attacks or if you have disproportionate anxiety about being in two different situations outside your home (for example, of being on a bus and being in a crowd). Your agoraphobia must have resulted in your complete inability to function outside your home. Because agoraphobia is so closely related to panic disorder (many psychiatrists now consider it a form of panic disorder), Social Security evaluates this condition in the same way as it evaluates panic attacks. For more details, see our in-depth article on  disability for panic disorder and panic attacks.

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