Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that’s triggered by a traumatic event. Statistics regarding this illness indicate that approximately 7%-8% of people in the United States will likely develop PTSD in their lifetime, with a prevalence in combat veterans and rape victims ranging from 10% to as high as 30%. An estimate of 5 million people suffer from PTSD at any given time in the United States, and women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. Here, the causes, symptoms and treatments of PTSD will be discussed as well as applying for Social Security Disability benefits, when the symptoms of PTSD interfere with one’s ability to work.
Many people who are involved in traumatic events have a brief period of difficulty adjusting and coping. In some cases, though, the symptoms associated with this traumatic event can progressively worsen, lasting for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely disrupt daily life. In these cases, the sufferer may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Researchers are still trying to better understand what causes someone to get post-traumatic stress disorder. As with most mental illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder is probably caused by a complex mix of the following:
-Inherited predisposition to mental illness, especially anxiety and depression;
-Life experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma one has been exposed to since early childhood;
-The inherited aspects of one’s personality (temperament); -The regulation of hormones in relation to one’s handling of stressful situations.
Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder typically begin within three months of a traumatic event, but may not occur until years after the event. Commonly grouped into three types of symptoms, PTSD may present via the following: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal):
Symptoms of intrusive memories:
-Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event
-Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing may include:
-Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
-Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
-Hopelessness about the future
-Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Symptoms of anxiety and increased emotional arousal may include:
-Irritability or anger
-Overwhelming guilt or shame
-Being easily startled or frightened
-Hearing or seeing things that are not there
Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment often includes both medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications and psychotherapy, including cognitive therapy, exposure therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and cognitive behavior therapy. This combined approach can help improve your symptoms and teach you skills to cope better with the traumatic event and its aftermath.
Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits
PTSD is not differentiated by diagnosis in the Social Security Disability Impairment Listings. However, because anxiety disorders are addressed in Section 12.00 of the Impairment Listings, those who suffer from PTSD may qualify for social security disability benefits. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program designed to pay monetary benefits to qualified applicants who have worked long enough and paid their social security taxes. Based on medical evidence, work history, and education history, the Social Security Administration determines whether or not applicants qualify for benefits and how much each applicant can receive.
In cases where PTSD is interfering with one’s ability to work, medical evidence and work history are important in assisting Social Security with determining one’s monetary claim. The degree to which the symptoms of PTSD, or the side effects of the medications taken to treat the symptoms of PTSD, limit one’s ability to work must be clear in the evidence presented in the case. Evidence needs to include medical records, employment records, medication lists, and statements from supervisors and/or co-workers. Once this information is collected, it is presented to the Social Security Administration for consideration in whole for determining a monetary award for benefits.
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