Agoraphobia is literally the fear of open spaces, although most individuals with agoraphobia do not necessarily fear open spaces. Many individuals have what is described as intense anxiety or panic attacks when faced with certain conditions or situations which can include crowded places, social gatherings, airplanes, sporting events, being alone, shopping, etc.
The severity of the agoraphobia can range from mild anxiety to the refusal to leave one’s home. Disability claimants generally have a pattern of “avoidant behavior” which may cause them to avoid any place that may produce a feeling of anxiety.
Some disability applicants misunderstand agoraphobia and think it is the opposite of claustrophobia, the fear of confined spaces, but this is generally not the case. The fear of leaving one’s house or agoraphobia and going to an “outdoor” space is a function of the potential anticipation of a panic attack and less about the fear of the literal “outside.”
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
Stressful events may trigger a variety of symptoms in disability claimants suffering from agoraphobia. Some of the most common symptoms can include:
• Upset stomach
• Hot flashes
• Rapid heart rate
• Difficulty swallowing
• Ringing in the ears
• Dread and anxiety
• Low self-esteem
Although agoraphobia may be difficult to prevent, it can be treated. The most common treatments include medication and psychotherapy. Doctors work with individuals until they can help them become more desensitized to aggravating situations. The most important thing is to get early intervention and treatment.
Winning Disability Benefits for Agoraphobia
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two ways to award SSDI and SSI benefits for agoraphobia. The first method is to evaluate a claimant’s condition and determine if it “meets a listing” in the SSA Listing of Impairments (informally known as The Blue Book). This is basically a list of all the conditions and diseases (and corresponding symptoms) that the SSA considers automatically disabling.
Agoraphobia is evaluated under 12.00 Mental Disorders, Section 12.06 Anxiety-related Disorders. See below for a complete listing from the SSA Listing of Impairments.
12.06 Anxiety-related disorders
In these disorders anxiety is either the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual attempts to master symptoms; for example, confronting the dreaded object or situation in a phobic disorder or resisting the obsessions or compulsions in obsessive compulsive disorders.
The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in both A and C are satisfied.
A. Medically documented findings of at least one of the following:
1. Generalized persistent anxiety accompanied by three out of four of the following signs or symptoms:
a. Motor tension; or
b. Autonomic hyperactivity; or
c. Apprehensive expectation; or
d. Vigilance and scanning; or
2. A persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation which results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object, activity, or situation; or
3. Recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror and sense of impending doom occurring on the average of at least once a week; or
4. Recurrent obsessions or compulsions which are a source of marked distress; or
5. Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience, which are a source of marked distress;
B. Resulting in at least two of the following:
1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.
C. Resulting in complete inability to function independently outside the area of one’s home.
The SSA states that claimants must have documented proof of their anxiety reaction. The description must include the frequency, nature, and duration of the panic attacks. This information must be provided by a medical professional or psychologist. If this is not possible, descriptions from other witnesses must be available.
Winning Disability Benefits through a Medical Vocational Allowance
What if your condition does not meet or exceed the listing above? Then you must win benefits through a medical vocational allowance. Under this process, the SSA will evaluate your residual capacity to work. If they decide, based on your age, work history, education, and medical conditions that you do not have the capacity to work, they will award you benefits.
- Help With Panic Attacks, Anxiety and Agoraphobia: An All-Encompassing Approach Using Technology (prnewswire.com)
- Agoraphobia and Me 1 (mradclyffe.wordpress.com)
- Agoraphobia: Four Things I Had To Change Before Healing Could Begin (tfollowers.com)