Is PTSD A Disability?

Reviewed by Melinda (Santa) Gladden, LCSW

Published 12/10/2020

Being unable to work due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another medical or mental health condition can be scary. Especially for those without a substantial amount of savings, it can be hard to face thoughts of the present or future and wonder what you will do to cover expenses such as housing, food, toiletries, and clothes both now and on an ongoing basis. Disabilities are not limited to physical disabilities. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, you might wonder, "Is PTSD a disability? What do I do if it's impacting my ability to go to work?" This article will answer those questions and guide you toward resources that can help.

About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD

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Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health disorder that is caused by trauma or enduring a traumatic event. Groups of symptoms, including symptoms of avoidance, mood-related symptoms, re-experiencing symptoms, and symptoms of reactivity, characterize it. Not everyone who undergoes trauma has PTSD. In fact, the majority of trauma survivors do not go on to develop PTSD. That does not mean that someone with trauma will not be impacted by it. It is normal to experience symptoms on a short-term basis after trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD occurs and is diagnosed when symptoms of the disorder are present for one month or more and interfere with someone's life substantially.

Here are PTSD symptoms to look out for:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares, or frightening, intrusive thoughts
  • Hypervigilance
  • Startling easily
  • Avoiding reminders of the event, which may including avoiding places where the event occurred, items, emotions or thoughts related to the traumatic event, and more
  • Feelings of guilt or blame
  • Difficulty remembering important parts of the event
  • Feeling tense or on-edge
  • Negative thoughts and beliefs about one's self or the world
  • Irritability or anger
  • Loss of interest in activities one used to enjoy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Derealization or dissociation

The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders or DSM, which is used to diagnose mental disorders, requires that you meet specific measures for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This criterion includes symptoms in designated categories. You must experience a certain number of symptoms in each category, and again, they must affect your daily life in areas such as work or school, interpersonal relationships, and so on. PTSD is debilitating, and symptoms vary from person to person. The most recent version of the DSM is the DSM-5, so PTSD is currently diagnosed according to the criteria in the DSM-5 as opposed to earlier versions of the manual.

What Is Considered Trauma In PTSD?

When people hear the words "post-traumatic stress disorder," many people think of those who have been to war. However, veterans are not the only ones who face PTSD. The traumatic event that triggers PTSD could be anything from physical assault to a car accident to the traumatic passing of a loved one. PTSD can affect people of all ages, including children. If a young child has PTSD, signs, and symptoms may manifest differently than they would in adults. For example, a child might reenact traumatic events during playtime or begin wetting the bed. Neglect is one of the most common causes of PTSD in kids, though again, it can be caused by experiencing or witnessing any traumatic event. Breaking stigma about PTSD and who gets it is essential because it increases understanding and access to treatment.

Is PTSD A Disability?

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PTSD is a disability. When a person has PTSD, they may not be able to work, or they may require accommodations. The EEOC or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website states the following: "If you have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental health condition, you are protected against discrimination and harassment at work because of your condition, you have workplace privacy rights, and you may have a legal right to get reasonable accommodations that can help you perform and keep your job." The same is true for other mental health disorders, including but not limited to anxiety disorders, depressive disorders or mood disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Comorbid conditions or diagnoses are common in those with PTSD, which means that if you have PTSD, you may also have an anxiety disorder, depression, or another mental health diagnosis. Common comorbidities for those with PTSD include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, substance use, and eating disorders.

Can You Get Disability For PTSD?

You can get disability or disability benefits for PTSD. Social Security Income, also called SSI, is based on your financial need. You can receive disability benefits if you are unable to work due to PTSD or another medical or mental health condition. Some people search the web for "PTSD disability living allowance" or "PTSD social security amount," hoping to learn how much money they will receive personally if they are approved for disability benefits, but the amount varies.

The Social Security Administration or SSA website describes social security benefits by saying, "Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes):

  • It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and
  • It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter."

In the case that you were able to work for a substantial amount of time and meet the requirements, you may be able to get Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI, which is described by the Social Security Administration or SSA website by saying, "Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are "insured," meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes."

Requirements For Disability Benefits

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Applying for social security disability is often a scary and incredibly stressful process. To receive disability benefits, the following must be true:

  • You must be unable to work or function outside of the home
  • You must be able to prove your disability and level of functioning
  • You must not make $1,260.00 or more per month (this differs for those who are blind)

Marriage and other factors can affect your ability to receive benefits. This page on the SSA website can help you to determine if you may be eligible.

PTSD Treatment

Roughly, 7% to 8% of the United States adult population has post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. It is a debilitating condition that affects your life in a variety of areas, but the good news is that it is treatable and that even if it does not go away, your symptoms can improve. If you have PTSD or think that you might, you may be wondering about treatment for PTSD in terms of what types of treatment are available and how they work. Talk therapy or psychotherapy is one of the most popular forms of treatment for PTSD. To find a counselor or therapist who can help with PTSD or trauma, you can contact your doctor to ask for a referral, search the web for therapists who specialize in working with those who have PTSD by searching for "PTSD therapist near me," "trauma therapist near me," or a similar term, contacting your insurance company or going to their website to see what they offer and who they cover, or by looking for an online therapist.

You can find an online therapist or counseling by signing up for a counseling website like Better Help, where you will take a questionnaire and are paired with a counselor or therapist. If you see a counselor and therapist and find that it is not a good fit, you can always switch providers. You can live a full life with PTSD, and treatment can help. If you are struggling to find a provider, do not hesitate to use an online directory or search tool such as the one in the upper right-hand corner of the Mind Diagnostics website.

Getting a PTSD Diagnosis

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To get disability benefits for any medical or mental health condition, you will need to have a diagnosis. A diagnosis can also be useful for other reasons, such as insurance coverage for therapy. If you believe that you have PTSD, you can get an evaluation from a psychiatrist or another medical provider who is qualified to diagnose mental health conditions. The evaluation process is not as scary as it seems. It is non-invasive. When you are evaluated for PTSD, you will be asked a series of questions and will be diagnosed based on your answers.

Take the Mind Diagnostics PTSD Test

Are you wondering if you might have PTSD? If so, consider taking the Mind Diagnostics PTSD test. It is free, confidential, and fast. Note that although you can have PTSD at any age, the Mind Diagnostics PTSD test is for those aged 18 and older. While the Mind Diagnostics PTSD test is not a replacement for a diagnosis, it may be able to give your insight into your symptoms and could be your first step to getting the help that you need.

Click here to take the Mind Diagnostics PTSD test.

NOTES: I do not think promoting the test, especially to self-diagnosis PTSD, is appropriate. However, the article did provide a lot of background knowledge on what makes PTSD a disability. Clients have informed me that have applied for disability, continue to be denied several times.

  • Does not go against what is clinically accepted.
  • Does not encourage mindsets or practices that may be harmful to the reader.
  • Is factual and up-to-date.