Some types of fear can be disabling. In fact, fear and panic can be so intrusive in some people’s lives that there’s a condition called panic disorder. People with this condition have episodes of intense fear that isn’t caused by an outside environmental factor that it would be reasonable to fear. Panic attacks can last for several minutes or longer, and they can make going to work and doing a job well all the more difficult or maybe even impossible. Anyone who thinks that they have a panic disorder should learn about the condition, how it’s treated, and ways that they can receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.
What Is Panic Disorder?
Many people have a panic attack or two throughout the course of their lifetimes, but panic attacks can clear away themselves after the stressful time or other trigger is over. On the other hand, some people experience panic attacks on a regular basis, regardless of environmental factors. People in this second category might be diagnosed as having a panic disorder.
There are several risk factors for developing a panic disorder. For instance, people who have family members who have a panic disorder are at a greater risk of developing it also. Major stressful events, such as the death of a loved one, can also trigger a panic disorder. Smoking and drinking a lot of caffeine, experiencing a traumatic event, major life changes, and a history of childhood sexual or physical abuse are other contributing factors that make a person more likely to develop a panic disorder.
The biggest risk of not receiving treatment for a panic disorder is continuing to get progressively worse symptoms, which can ruin a person’s quality of life. Many people with a panic disorder will continue to experience symptoms and even begin to feel panic over the thought of having a panic attack. Additionally, the person might also fear more situations, such as driving or social situations.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
Panic attacks don’t come on a set schedule. In fact, they can come at any time in any situation, and the person might not have any warning before it happens. Typically, the peak of a panic attack, when a person feels the greatest feelings of fear, happens within a few minutes. After that, the feelings of dread taper off. Afterwards, people often feel tired.
While fear is a good word to describe the general feeling that a person having a panic attack will experience, there are other symptoms that can accompany the general fear. For instance, some people will experience sweating, trembling, shaking, hot flashes, nausea, chills, headache, chest pain, rapid heart rate, abdominal cramping, numbness and tingling sensations throughout the body, especially in the extremities, and dizziness that can result in fainting. Some people will also have a feeling of detachment, experience fear of losing control or dying, and have an overall sense of doom or dread.
Beyond seeing a friend or co-worker go into the experience of having a panic attack, people around the person with the panic disorder will also likely notice that their friend, family member, or co-worker no longer wants to go and do certain things because they’re afraid of having another attack and are trying to avoid it. They might also notice that their companion’s pupils dilate when the person is having a panic attack.
Treatments for Panic Disorder
There are a couple of ways that a doctor might try to treat a panic disorder: psychotherapy and medications.
Psychotherapy is a type of talk therapy in which the patient learns coping strategies to lessen the severity and frequency of panic attacks. During this process, the clinician helps the client understand panic disorders so that they can better learn how to cope with them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is often used on people with panic disorders. In this process, the clinician helps the person with the panic disorder to realize that the physical process of having a panic attack isn’t dangerous. Eventually, after many times of having a panic attack in a controlled environment, the panic attack becomes repetitive, and the person begins to realize that the panic attacks aren’t dangerous. This is when the severity and frequency of the panic attacks subsides.
Medications are another form of treatment for panic disorders. There are several types of medications that a person can take, depending on their specific symptoms and the severity. One of the most common is selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors, also called SSRIs. This type of drug is also called an anti-depressant, and it’s the first choice of drug for panic disorders because there’s low risk of side effects.
Another form of drug that a doctor might prescribe is benzodiazepines, which are a type of sedative that can help the patient relax. Doctors usually only prescribe them for short periods of time and only to people who don’t have a history of drug problems because benzodiazepines can be habit forming.
Some medications might also be combined with psychotherapy to create a treatment plan that’s specifically tailored to the patient’s needs.
Disability Benefits for Panic Disorder
Panic disorders are covered in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book under the listing of Anxiety Disorders. Anyone who applies for a disability must be disabled by their condition for at least 12 months or expect to be disabled by it for that amount of time. They must also make less than a certain amount of money every month. If these two qualifications aren’t met, the claim will automatically be denied.
Additionally, in order to receive benefits for panic disorder, the applicant must have been diagnosed with panic disorder, and they must either have panic attacks that are also followed by fear of more panic attacks or have fears of being in public places, such as the bus, grocery store, and other crowded places.
The applicant must also show that they have extreme limitations in at least one area or a marked limitation in at least two of the following areas. These areas are regulation of emotions and controlling behaviors, engaging in socially appropriate behaviors, finishing tasks, and remembering information.
Applicants need to have a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other doctor document their symptoms, the duration of their panic attacks, and the frequency of the attacks. Additionally, they should document anyone who has seen the panic attacks and have at least one description of an entire panic attack.
Finally, the Social Security Administration will also want to see the doctor’s opinion on the applicant’s ability to sustain concentration and a routine, make decisions, show up to work on time, and interact with others in a socially appropriate way.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to panic disorder, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.