One of the most common mental health questions is, “Is anxiety a disability?” Read the article below to get the answer.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to present medical studies and information in an accessible manner. This post may contain opinions about a particular supplement but it does not mean that it is recommended for all readers. Always consult a medical professional to see if it may be right for you.
In this article:
- What Is Anxiety Disorder?
- Is Anxiety Genetic?
- What Can Anxiety Do to Your Body?
- Is Anxiety Disorder a Disability Under the ADA?
- Can You Be Fired for Mental Health Issues?
- How Can I Get Disability Benefits for Anxiety?
- How Do You Calm Down Anxiety?
Is Anxiety a Disability? The Answer—and More
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
Do you ever ask, “Is anxiety a disability?” or “Is social anxiety a disability?”
How about “Is generalized anxiety disorder a disability?”
To properly answer these questions, you need to know first what anxiety means and its types.
“Anxiety disorder” is the umbrella term for mental conditions characterized by overwhelming feelings of fear, dread, and worry. The following fall under this category:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), where the worry can occur without provocation
- Panic disorder, which is anxiety accompanied by symptoms of panic such as breathlessness, tightness in the chest, or dizziness
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which develops after experiencing a traumatic event
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), where the person has a strong compulsion or urge to repeat specific actions or behaviors, as well as entertain unwanted thoughts
- Social anxiety disorder or social phobia, which is anxiety when in a crowd
- Other types of phobia, which are a strong fear over something
Although they are similar, they still exhibit specific characteristics. For a correct diagnosis, psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
This lists the criteria for each of these anxiety disorders. For example, a GAD patient:
- Experiences significant anxiety on most days within the last six months or during specific events
- Is not be able to function well or normally because of the anxiety
- Has not been diagnosed with other kinds of anxiety disorders or not showing symptoms for these conditions
Is Anxiety Genetic?
Many people believe anxiety and other mental health disorders run in families. Some studies suggest it’s true.
A 2016 systematic review highlighted that some genes might predispose someone to anxiety disorder. Having it, however, doesn’t mean you will eventually experience it.
Environmental and lifestyle factors may also increase your risk of the disorder. These may even lead to a phenomenon called epigenetics.
Epigenetics Definition: A study that focuses on the changes in the characteristics of the genes without alterations in the DNA
It works like this: say a person develops anxiety without the genetic trait. With epigenetics, they can pass on this “gene changes” to their offspring.
What Can Anxiety Do to Your Body?
Anxiety disorders can be both distressing and debilitating. They can affect both the mind and the body.
Some of the effects of the disorders include:
- Weaker or poorer immune system
- Gut-related issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), changes in the bowel movement or bloating
- Dizziness, headaches, and nausea
- Irritability or moodiness
- Muscle tension
- Low libido
- Increased blood pressure
- Difficulty in concentrating
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Definition: A cluster of digestive symptoms that include diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain
Is Anxiety Disorder a Disability Under the ADA?
The American Disability Act (ADA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits a person’s ability to do one or more life activities. These include doing and keeping a job.
Based on the definition, having an anxiety disorder doesn’t immediately make it a disability. That is if you can still function like those who don’t have the mental health condition.
Can You Be Fired for Mental Health Issues?
In general, the employer cannot do that if the sole basis for the termination is your illness. Under ADA, such an act is a form of discrimination.
Do note that some factors may make terminating legal. An example is when the condition no longer makes you productive.
Another is when your panic constantly disrupts work and colleagues or places the company in an awkward or difficult situation.
You can minimize the chances of termination in two ways:
- Inform your company about your symptoms, even if you don’t have an official diagnosis yet
- Propose an accommodation
Accommodation Definition: It’s when companies adjust your work experience to help you cope with the symptoms and encourage you to continue being productive. For example, the employer may allow you to work from home on most days if you have social anxiety.
How Can I Get Disability Benefits for Anxiety?
You can claim from your supplemental security income or Social Security disability insurance (or both). There’s a caveat, however.
Filing for a claim doesn’t guarantee you get a benefit. The agencies processing your requests have to assess their merits extensively.
They may issue a statement called mental residual functional capacity (MRFC). This informs your employer that you can still perform certain tasks but with lower productivity.
How Do You Calm Down Anxiety?
Having anxiety is not the end of the world. You can still cope and improve both your physical and mental situation.
Here are some tips for managing anxiety:
1. Center Yourself
In psychology, centering means bringing yourself back to the present moment. It is being aware of the external and internal environments while being relaxed.
Centering takes practice, but you can do it by:
- Meditating in a quiet place
- Doing yoga
- Playing relaxing music
- Breathing deep and mindfully
- Focusing on the present
- Exercising gratitude
- Grounding or walking barefoot
2. Consider Taking Honokiol
Honokiol is a lignan or a polyphenol in magnolia plants. It provides an anxiolytic effect, which means it can calm you.
You can take one or two pills when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. You may find relief within 20 minutes or less.
3. Pay Attention to Your Diet
Scientists are still trying to understand the relationship between the gut and mood disorders. Some studies already suggest a correlation between diet and anxiety.
A paper in the International Journal of Endocrinology revealed that those who had anxiety tend to have poor diets. Meal plans low in sugar but high in fatty acids may help regulate the symptoms.
4. Engage in Physical Activity
Like diet, exercise may help alleviate anxiety symptoms. One of the reasons is the increased production of serotonin and endorphins.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in sexual desire, appetite, sleep, learning, social behavior, and mood.
Neurotransmitter Definition: A chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells and other cells around the body
Endorphins, meanwhile, are peptide hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain. They bind to opiate receptors, which then reduce your perception of pain.
These neurotransmitters work similarly to cannabis or opioid. They give you a feeling of euphoria (or being high) without taking drugs.
5. Seek Professional Help
Anxiety symptoms can come in waves where intensity can be strong.
The modalities above will work better if you also seek professional help. Psychiatrists may provide you with medications to help your body calm down.
Psychologists can show you techniques and therapies to improve your mindset and help you cope with your condition.
Is anxiety a disability? Again, it depends on where you stand based on ADA’s definition.
If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that anxiety itself can be disabling, but all hope is not lost. Get the right help, and you’ll learn ways to co-exist with it.
Have you experienced any symptoms of anxiety disorders? How did you cope with them? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.