Is anxiety a disability?
Anxiety is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worry, fear, or unease that can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities. Given its debilitating effects, there has been much debate as to whether anxiety is a disability. In this blog post, we will examine the question of whether anxiety can be considered a disability, exploring the different perspectives on this issue and the legal framework that applies to it.
What is anxiety disorder
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a common mental health condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It is often described as a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can range from mild to severe. Anxiety can be triggered by a specific event or situation, such as an exam or a job interview, or it can be a more general feeling of nervousness that persists over time.
Symptoms of Anxiety
The severity and frequency of anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person. For some individuals, anxiety can be a temporary condition that is easily managed with self-care or medication. For others, it can be a chronic and debilitating condition that requires ongoing treatment and suppor. Anxiety can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chest pain or tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Insomnia or difficulty in sleeping
- Irritability or restlessness
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Wanting to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorder involves repeated episodes of these uncontrollable feelings in a person. Even, such symptoms build into a specific disorder. A person may want to avoid things and people that make him feel the stress. A person can experience extreme worry, controlling behaviour and a sense of doom when gripped in a situation. A person going through these symptoms can have different types of anxiety disorders which are :
Generalised Anxiety Disorder :- A person with GAD (Generalised anxiety disorder) feels an extreme and persistent negativity and fear even in normal routine and events. Such fear and apprehension is not directly related to the actual circumstance. The person feels tired physically and find it difficult to control. A person suffering from GAD even develop signs of depression.
Social Anxiety Disorder :- A person with SAD (social anxiety disorder) often feel anxious irrationally during social interactions. Any kind of public interaction and gatherings make the person feel an irrational anxiety. The person feels embarrassed, feared and self conscious during social gatherings. The person has an intense and persistent feeling of being judged and being watched by others. Social anxiety disorder is far more than mere shyness.
Panic disorder :- A person suffering from panic disorder feels striked by some sudden feelings of extreme intensity and fear of terror. The intensity reach at it’s peak in just a few minutes. This leads to panic attack with shortness of breath, chest pain feelings of impending doom and heart palpitations. With the fear that it will happen again, the person tries to avoid such situations.
Selective mutism :- This is a type of anxiety disorder in children that can lead to disability to go to school. Children with selective mutism find it difficult to speak somewhere like in school even when if they are able to speak with their closed ones and family members. Later, it can prove to be a hurdle in their work.
Phobia :- A person with phobia has an irrational anxiety about a common thing, situations and places. The person when exposed to such events, things or situations feels very fearful , helpless, embarrassed and worrying. The person always tries to avoid that thing or situation provoking his anxiety at any cost. A phobia can even lead to panic attacks in some people.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder :- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a state of persistent and excessive thoughts in a person that makes him to behave compulsively and repeatedly. These unwanted recurring thoughts leads to repetitive behaviours. These compulsive actions makes the person feel relieved from the anxious reoccurring thoughts running over his mind.
Whatever the type this disorder is, it is linked with traumatic life experiences. These events trigger anxiety in people already prone to anxiety. There are many medical problems like heart disease, respiratory disorders, thyroid, diabetes, chronic pain and IBS that are linked with causing anxiety disorders. Anxiety can also be the side effect of medications. Inherit traits can also lead to anxiety. Anxiety can even lead to worse physical and mental problems like depression, insomnia, social isolation, poor life quality and digestive problems.
Legal Framework for Disability
Before delving into whether anxiety is a disability, it is important to understand the legal framework that applies to disability in general. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the primary law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace, in public accommodations, and in other areas of public life. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as walking, seeing, hearing, or learning.
Under the ADA, individuals with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform their job duties or participate in public life. This can include modifications to the physical environment, such as wheelchair ramps or Braille signage, as well as adjustments to work schedules or job duties.
Is Anxiety a Disability?
Now that we have established the legal framework for disability, we can turn to the question of whether anxiety can be considered a disability. The answer to this question is not straightforward, as it depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of the anxiety symptoms, the individual’s ability to perform major life activities, and the type of accommodations that may be necessary.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting approximately 19% of adults each year. While anxiety can be a normal and adaptive response to stress, it can also be a disabling condition that interferes with daily activities and reduces quality of life.
For individuals with severe anxiety, the condition can substantially limit major life activities such as work, school, or social interactions. In these cases, anxiety can be considered a disability under the ADA, and individuals are entitled to reasonable accommodations that allow them to participate in these activities.
Can anxiety stop you from working?
The severity of an anxiety disorder can affect your ability to work. Your performance may be affected you will find it very difficult to give value to your work. There are some works that require mental skills and regular dealing with people. People who have an anxiety disorder will find it almost impossible to do such type of work and can lead to an increase in their anxiety levels. However, even extreme anxiety levels do not have any obvious effect on your ability to do physical work. If your job is more of physical skills requiring push and pull, it’s not a problem unless you have any physical impairment. If you are working on a office environment where you have to sit all day long, it can be more challenging to keep going this with the work meaningfully.
There are regulations regarding the benefits a person can seek if he is suffering from such disability. Social Security Disability benefits can be availed if the person is experiencing extreme anxiety since a long time. If the person is noticing signs like excessive apprehension, hyperactivity, lack of vigilance and panic attacks, he can show the same for getting the disability benefits. If an employee who feels anxious while meeting new people, but after a long deep breath, he can continue his work, then he won’t be able to get that benefit. An anxiety disorder that is expected to last for a year or long and will affect your ability to do some meaningful work, if diagnosed, you can apply for such benefits. You might be required to find out a medical information form and give all the medical information about yourself. You may be required to visit a doctor to check the necessary facts. You can even take help of a qualified Disability attorney for this.
Some examples of accommodations that may be necessary for individuals with anxiety include:
- Flexible work schedules or job duties
- A quiet workspace
- Permission to take breaks as needed
- Access to counseling or mental health services
- Accommodations for public speaking or other anxiety-provoking situations
Although, it’s true that anxiety can be a disability and it can affect your ability to give meaningful results in your work or in school, it is also true that such situation is not so common. Anxiety disorders can be treated not easily, but with some care. All you need is to follow proper medications along with psychotherapy and other stress reducing techniques. There are treatments that are particularly designed to control, reduce and gradually eliminate the worst signs of your anxiety. However, the severity of your case, your control over the reason of your fear and anxiety, and the type of anxiety disorder you have can affect the effectiveness of such treatment. Even simple lifestyle changes like getting up early, participating in activities that you enjoy, caring relationships and enjoying social interactions, and avoiding alcohol consumption can help you stand against it.