Can I Work With Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks are episodes of extreme fear and anxiety that typically have no rational basis or are completely out of proportion for the rational basis of anxiety. They generally have no warning signs and the person suffering from a panic attack typically cannot prevent them. In cases where panic attacks occur on a recurring basis, or in which the one with the panic attacks spends considerable amounts of time worried about having additional panic attacks, a sufferer may be diagnosed with panic disorder.

Typically, when someone suffers a panic attack, they feel a sudden and intense fear of dying. Alternately, they may feel that they are going losing all grip on reality. Palpitations, sweating, choking, shortness of breath, a prickling or tingling sensation on the skin, and hyperventilation are all common symptoms of panic attacks. Many who suffer from panic attacks develop other phobias and mental disorders if they were not suffering from them already. Particularly common among those with panic disorder is the fear of leaving home.

Panic attacks often manifest fairly early in life, often in the late teens and early twenties, though people of any age can have panic attacks. It is common for panic attacks to occur during periods of significant change such as graduating from school or college, getting married or divorced, or having a first child.

For Social Security Disability purposes, panic attacks are treated like any other disorder. You must demonstrate why your panic attacks prevent you from performing any kind of available work for which you are qualified or could be trained. The three best things you can do for your Social Security Disability claim are to make sure all panic attacks are thoroughly documented, be under the care of a doctor or psychiatrist (and follow all prescribed treatments and therapies), and hire a Social Security Disability lawyer who is experienced in handling panic attack cases to handle the claim for you.

Panic Attacks and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

When you suffer a panic attack, you may not be able to do much of anything physically. If your panic attacks occur frequently, this can make it impossible to perform any kind of physical labor or maintain employment that requires physical labor. In some cases, while panic attacks are not dangerous in and of themselves, a panic attack can create an unsafe situation in a work environment.

Your ability to perform physical work, as determined for Social Security Disability purposes, is likely to depend on both the frequency and severity of your panic attacks. It’s extremely important to make sure that you document all attacks, including how long they lasted, what symptoms you suffered, and how it affected your ability to perform work or other daily activities.

In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you must be found unable to perform any physical work, including light physical work which requires lifting 10 pounds regularly and 25 pounds occasionally. While panic attacks will not prevent you from performing work directly (except when you are having an actual attack), the disruption they cause to a work routine may be considered in determining that you can’t perform repetitive physical work.

Panic Attacks and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

Sedentary work requires little physical exertion, but does require you to sit in one place for several hours uninterrupted. Often, sedentary work requires being able to work with people, special training, or a high degree of manual dexterity (ability to use your hands). Whether your panic attacks hinder you from any of these things largely depends on what is causing the attacks. Make sure your mental health professional clearly lists all known contributing factors to your panic attacks and any effects these have on your daily activities, and hire a Social Security Disability lawyer who is experienced in handling panic attack cases to represent you.