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Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

Frequent, recurring panic attacks can have a profound negative impact on many parts of a person’s life. But is this negative impact severe enough to be considered disabling? In other words, is panic disorder a disability?

If you or a loved one are suffering from panic disorder, call us today. At Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry, we can help. Our anxiety treatment in Atlanta can help you overcome panic disorder. Call us now at 404-996-0037 or schedule an appointment.

What Is Panic Disorder?

Panic disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by recurrent panic attacks. In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), panic disorder is categorized as a type of anxiety disorder.

Panic attacks involve the sudden, unpredictable onset of a variety of painful physical and psychological symptoms. As established in the DSM-5, a panic attack will include four or more of the following symptoms:

  • Racing heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling like you can’t catch your breath
  • Sensation of being choked
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Stomach pain and/or nausea
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness or tingling (often in hands or feet)
  • Sense of being detached for your body (depersonalization) or separated from your environment (derealization)
  • Fear that you have lost control of your mind
  • Fear that you are dying

Panic attacks usually don’t last more than a few minutes – but during that period, the physical and psychological distress can be overwhelming. It is not an exaggeration to state that a panic attack can cause a person to believe that they are literally about to die.

Also, the torment that panic attacks can inflict doesn’t end when the symptoms dissipate. People who have panic disorder have to live with the fear that they could experience another attack at virtually any time. This fear can lead to behavioral changes and a host of other disruptions.

Is Panic Disorder a Disability?

Given the considerable upheaval that recurring panic attacks can cause, it is understandable to wonder, is panic disorder a disability?

The answer to this question may not be as straightforward as you might initially think. This is because the term “disability” can be defined differently depending on the context in which it is used. Let’s look at a few scenarios: 

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

Signed into law in 1990, the ADA offers federal protection from discrimination on the basis of disability. 

As explained on the ADA website, this law “guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs.” 

But is panic disorder a disability under the ADA? 

Yes, it is, as long as a person can prove that the disorder “substantially impairs one or more major life activities.” 

To qualify for the work-related protections that are established in the ADA, a person must also be able to demonstrate that they can perform all duties of a job with reasonable accommodations

Social Security Administration (SSA)

The Social Security Administration offers two type of disability-related financial support:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): To be eligible for SSDI, an adult must have a disability that will affect their ability to work for at least a year. Also, they must have worked – and contributed to Social Security via either payroll tax or FICA deductions – for at least five of the past 10 years.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): To qualify for SSI funds, a person must be over 65, blind, or disabled. They also must have limited income and limited resources (no more than $2,000 for an adult or $3,000 for a couple).

Is panic disorder a disability as defined by the SSA?

Yes, it is. However, simply having a diagnosis of panic disorder is not enough to qualify a person for either of these programs. 

In addition to meeting all other requirements, a person who has panic disorder must also be able to prove that their panic attacks are severe enough and occur often enough that they will be unable to work for 12 months or longer.  

Handicap/Disabled Parking 

Laws governing access to specially designated handicapped or disabled parking spaces are established on a state-by-state basis. 

In Georgia, where Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry is located, neither panic disorder nor any other mental health condition would meet the requirements for obtaining the permit or special license plate that will allow a person to use these designated parking spaces. 

We cannot claim with absolute certainty that every other state similarly restricts access to these spaces to individuals who have certain physical disabilities, but it is unlikely that having panic disorder would be considered a disability in any state for this purpose.

Find Panic Disorder Treatment in Atlanta

There is little question that panic disorder can interfere with a person’s ability to live a full and satisfying life. However, it is important to remember that it is a treatable condition. With the right care, people can experience relief from their symptoms and pursue a much healthier and more hopeful future.

Atlanta Integrative Psychiatry offers customized outpatient care for adults who have been living with panic disorder, other anxiety disorders, and other mental health concerns. Our staff is committed to providing innovative, evidence-based services in an atmosphere of dignity, compassion, and respect. 

When you choose our mental health treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, you will work with dedicated professionals who will take the time to get to know you as a unique and valuable individual. We will discuss your needs and expectations with you, help you set appropriate short- and long-term goals, and then develop a customized plan just for you.

Throughout your time with us, we will closely monitor your progress and encourage you to share your thoughts and concerns, so that we can be sure we are providing the care you need and the support you deserve.

To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Appointment page or call us today.

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