Is PTSD A Disability? Here’s The Answer To This Question [UK] 2023

Christine VanDoren

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Jennifer Olejarz, Nutritionist & Health Coach

is ptsd a disability
Symptoms of PTSD can be managed with professional therapy.

We all experience stress and trauma in our lives. Some events are so stressful and traumatic that the effects stay with us long after the event. This often causes certain symptoms, many of which are psychological.

Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when symptoms associated with a traumatic event linger and the passing of time doesn’t act as a healing mechanism. This is the most common diagnosis given when symptoms are severe or lengthy and debilitating following a traumatic experience.

So, is PTSD a disability? According to the medical world and the Social Security Administration, the answer is yes. It’s considered part of the stressor-related disorders, which affect the mental health of the sufferer long term. PTSD treatment can take time, too, before it begins to ease the symptoms of those with this condition.

Is PTSD A Disability?

PTSD is considered a disability if someone cannot work due to the symptoms they are experiencing. However, not all forms of PTSD are considered a disability, so it varies from person to person. If you do fulfill the symptom criteria, you will qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. In the meantime, consider engaging in self-care, such as eating healthily and meditating.

When Is PTSD A Disability?

Not all forms of PTSD satisfy the criteria needed to be considered a disability. This can affect who gets social security disability benefits. However, sufferers can get a disability claim for PTSD approved if their symptoms are severe enough. 

PTSD symptoms are considered severe if they impact everyday life and someone’s ability to work and can be expressed in various ways. For example, frequent nightmares about the traumatic event can affect sleeping patterns. Lack of sleep can lead to further psychological problems such as mood swings and irritability.

This can impact relationships and the ability of the sufferer to find and maintain employment. Other symptoms[1] that can categorize PTSD as a disability include the following:

  • Anxiety.
  • Aggression.
  • Distressing memories.
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Avoidance behavior.
  • Flashbacks to the trigger event.
  • Difficulty sleeping.

For an adult to be diagnosed with PTSD,[2] they must have certain PTSD symptoms for more than one month after exposure to a traumatic event. These include suffering at least one avoidance symptom and a re-experience symptom.[3] Two mood and arousal/reactivity symptoms also need to be experienced and documented in medical records.

The next step is to assess whether these symptoms seriously impact the daily life[4] of the sufferer. If they do, then PTSD can be categorized as a social security disability.

Even when PTSD has become a disability, the symptoms must still meet the requirements set out by the Social Security Administration, or SSA. These can be found in the SSA’s Blue Book[4] under trauma and stressor-related disorders. 

PTSD must be properly medically documented; medical records and detailed medical documentation can help. These provide professional medical evidence that builds a profile of how debilitating PTSD has become.

What Are The Legal Rights?

Is PTSD a disability under ADA — the Americans with Disabilities Act?[5] Yes, the ADA considers PTSD a disability, which helps increase the human rights of sufferers in society. 

Under the ADA, those with PTSD must be treated fairly, with dignity, and without discrimination. Legally, they are also entitled to certain services and treatments. 

Individuals must be informed of all the treatment and service options available to them. This includes the ability to get help with PTSD disability claims from a medical attorney.

Finally, those with mental health issues like PTSD have legal rights to be treated fairly by employers. They should not need to fear being harassed because of their condition.

PTSD Disability Benefits & How To Apply

The process for applying for PTSD disability benefits can seem long and complicated. This is why getting as much assistance as possible during the application process.

Sufferers need to convince decision-makers that their PTSD is severe enough to prevent them from carrying out daily tasks to receive disability benefits. 

This is why gathering as much medical evidence as possible from doctors and therapists is vital. Doing so can help increase the PTSD disability rating of an individual and increase your chances of a successful disability claim. This makes PTSD disability payments more likely to happen.

Steps To Apply For Disability

  1. Fulfill the symptom criteria set out by the SSA. These may include generalized persistent anxiety, chronic anxiety, and panic disorder.
  2. A diagnosis of PTSD needs to be confirmed by a medical professional.
  3. You must follow the treatment plan provided by the professional.
  4. Complete an application for disability. 
  5. Have a Disability Determination Services (DDS) physician fill out your Residual Functional Capacity[6] assessment form.

What Happens When You Qualify?

PTSD claims are approved by the SSA only when they meet the criteria set out by the Blue Book,[7] section 12.06.

A PTSD disability claim is often approved as a medical-vocational allowance.[8] This occurs when it is judged that a medical condition affects a person’s capacity to earn a living.

A medical-vocational allowance is awarded if symptoms prevent an individual from continuing to work. This also applies to those unable to gain new employment that can offer a substantial income.

Those who are deemed unfit to work may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance. They may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income. These claims are heard before the Disability Determination Services. A disability attorney representative can vastly increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Self-Care Tips For PTSD 

Eat Healthily

Although getting professional help is vital if someone is suffering from PTSD, some self-care tips can help, too. These include eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet and avoiding junk food high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. This can help the body deal with stress and can also fight depression.[9]

Meditation

Meditation can help ease stress.[10] Regular practice can ward off a potential anxiety disorder and other severe symptoms before they grip the mind and body and require medical treatment. Meditation can also help to reduce the body’s stress hormone cortisol. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy,[11] or CBT, has been used to treat anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness. It helps change the mindset and thought processes of those afflicted with mental health issues. This therapy is thought to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It makes them cope more effectively with the initial trigger event.

Exercise

Exercise, whether in the form of running or playing a sport, can get individuals out in the sun and fresh air. Exercise not only improves physical health but gives mental health a boost as well. Exercise stimulates various brain chemicals[12] that can ease mental tension and anxiety.

The Takeaway

PTSD is a distressing long-term condition. It’s triggered by an extremely traumatic event that affects individuals. This impact can be both physical and mental. It manifests itself in various symptoms that affect the quality of life of sufferers. Areas impacted include their ability to work and find employment.

Sufferers may ask certain questions such as “Is post-traumatic stress disorder a permanent disability, or “Is complex post-traumatic stress disorder a disability?”

PTSD is considered a disability by the medical world. This leads to sufferers also asking the question, “Can you get disability for PTSD?” The answer is yes. It is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration as well.

The more complex the PTSD, the more of a disability it becomes. So the sooner treatment begins, the better. Fortunately, PTSD doesn’t have to be permanent. Certain treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can help ease symptoms.

The best way to apply for disability is by building evidence of symptoms with the help of doctors and other health care professionals. This can be presented to decision-makers, increasing the chances of receiving financial help towards the cost of living.


+ 12 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2023). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. [online] Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
  2. Mayoclinic.org. (2022). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355973
  3. NHS Choices (2023). Symptoms – Post-traumatic stress disorder. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms/
  4. ‌Ssa.gov. (2023). 12.00-Mental Disorders-Adult. [online] Available at: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm#12_15;
  5. DOL. (2023). Americans with Disabilities Act. [online] Available at: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/disability/ada#:~:text=The%20Americans%20with%20Disabilities%20Act,local%20government’%20programs%20and%20services.
  6. Disabilitybenefitscenter.org. (2023). How You Can File the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) Form. [online] Available at: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/how-to/how-to-file-the-residual-functional-capacity-rfc-form#:~:text=What%20Is%20The%20Residual%20Functional,or%20physical%20disability%20into%20account.
  7. AARP. (2021). What is the Social Security blue book? [online] Available at: https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/blue-book.html#:~:text=The%20Blue%20Book%2C%20formally%20titled,person%20can%20receive%20disability%20benefits.
  8. Disabilitybenefitscenter.org. (2023). Medical Vocational Allowance. [online] Available at: https://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org/glossary/medical-vocational-allowance
  9. Ljungberg, T., Bondza, E. and Lethin, C. (2020). Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression. [online] 17(5), pp.1616–1616. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051616.
  10. Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., Chapleau, M.-A., Paquin, K. and Hofmann, S.G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. [online] 33(6), pp.763–771. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005.
  11. Carpenter, J.A., Andrews, L.A., Witcraft, S.M., Powers, M.B., Jasper and Hofmann, S.G. (2018). Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and related disorders: A meta‐analysis of randomized placebo‐controlled trials. [online] 35(6), pp.502–514. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22728.
  12. Mayo Clinic. (2021). 7 great reasons why exercise matters. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389#:~:text=Exercise%20improves%20mood&text=Physical%20activity%20stimulates%20various%20brain,and%20improve%20your%20self%2Desteem.
Christine VanDoren

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Olejarz

Christine is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with an undergraduate degree from Missouri State University. Her passion is helping others learn how strong and healthy they can become by transforming their daily habits. Christine spends most of her time in the gym, hiking, painting, and learning how she can influence others through positivity!

Medically reviewed by:

Jennifer Olejarz

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