Can Someone With SAD Qualify for Social Assistance?

Working with social anxiety disorder can be a struggle.
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In the United States, the Social Security disability insurance program is implemented by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This program pays benefits to individuals who are found to meet the requirements for disability insurance.

Anxiety disorders fall under the umbrella of disability—if you are coping with social anxiety disorder (SAD) and unable to work, you may qualify for assistance.

Criteria for Social Assistance 

The SSA disability programs set forth a number of criteria that must be met in order to qualify for assistance for an anxiety disorder in Section 12.06 of the "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security" document.

The following list is adapted from the SSA government website to display an example of the criteria that might be met for someone with social anxiety disorder (SAD).

In order for a person with social anxiety disorder to meet the required level of severity, the typical criteria needed would be the following:

1. Medical documentation of persistent and irrational fear of social and performance situations that results in a compelling desire to avoid those situations.


2. Marked restriction in activities of daily living and marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning OR complete inability to function independently outside of the home.

For someone with SAD, activities of daily living that might be impaired could include such things as using public transportation, paying bills, making phone calls and attending appointments. 

In terms of social functioning, you might experience fear of people, avoidance of relationships and social isolation.

In addition to the above requirements, consideration would be made as to how much the impairment interferes with your ability to work, and whether the problems have lasted for at least 12 months.

What If You Don't Meet the Criteria?

If you have severe impairment in functioning that does not meet the above criteria, you may still qualify for support.

The SSA recognizes something called residual functional capacity (RFC)—the work-related abilities that you have in spite of your social anxiety disorder.

An evaluation of your RFC demonstrates how your work abilities might be compromised by your anxiety even when your impairment is not severe enough to meet the criteria listed above.

For example, if you have severe performance anxiety you might be unable to complete job duties as a teacher, even though daily social activities and daily functioning are manageable.

Sources of Information

In assessing your case, a variety of information sources will be examined. These might include any of the following:

  • Medical history
  • Mental status examination
  • Psychological testing
  • Hospitalization/treatment history
  • Nurse/social worker statements
  • Personal statement
  • Statements from family
  • Work evaluations
  • Previous work attempts

For anxiety disorders, in particular, a description of your anxiety is required, including the nature, frequency, and duration of any anxiety attacks, the triggers, and effects on your functioning.

How to Apply

The claim process typically takes place through a local Social Security field office or State agency (called a disability determination service, DDS).

The application can generally be made in person, by telephone, by mail, or through an online application process. You will need to provide a description of your impairment, contact information for your treatment provider, etc.

Working While Receiving Benefits

If you feel that your situation has changed and you would like to try working again, you will not lose your rights to benefits. Plus, you may even be provided with help to pay for work expenses and vocational training!

Given the highly treatable nature of SAD, this is a great incentive to return to the workforce if and when you feel ready.

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