Agoraphobia is a mental health disorder that can make being productive at work difficult or even impossible. Some people might even have difficulties getting to work because of their extreme fear of leaving their home. But people who have a mental health disorder that prevents them from holding a job might wonder what kind of help is available. The Social Security Administration has a list of health-related disabilities that people can receive disability benefits for, and agoraphobia is one of the listed disorders. To learn more about how agoraphobia can affect a person’s ability to work and how the SSA can help, here’s some more information on the disorder.
What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which a person fears leaving their home, being in open places, or being in places in which it would be difficult to escape. Most people with agoraphobia have a fear of helplessness or embarrassment that is actually caused by their fear of having a panic attack. Usually, agoraphobia develops after one or more episodes of panic in a public place. In fact, agoraphobia is actually very closely related to panic disorder.
One of the keys to a diagnosis of agoraphobia is that the fears need to be irrational. For instance, it’s fairly rational to be afraid to go to a place that could be unsafe, such as a country in political strife, but under most circumstances, it’s irrational to be afraid to go to the grocery store.
A person experiencing agoraphobia will often avoid situations that make them feel helpless or experience fear of embarrassment. For instance, a person with agoraphobia might choose to avoid public transportation because they don’t like crowds and it can be difficult to get the bus driver to immediately stop if they have a problem.
Most people who develop agoraphobia are under the age of 35 but out of adolescence, with a median age of about 20 for initial onset. Additionally, people who experience agoraphobia are more likely to be women than men. If it goes untreated, agoraphobia can last for years after the initial panic attack in a public place.
Symptoms of Agoraphobia
The general symptoms of agoraphobia include feelings of worry over the thought of going to places where it might be difficult to control the environment. In fact, some people even have panic attacks if they try to leave their homes and go to the places that give them anxiety.
People who are experiencing symptoms of agoraphobia might feel a tightness in the chest, dizziness, nausea, and a general fear of crowds. Additionally, some people with agoraphobia might rely on a close friend or family member because of their fear of leaving the home. For instance, the friend or family member might need to do their grocery shopping or other activities that must be done outside of the home. Some people also choose to have someone go with them to places that are likely to trigger agoraphobia symptoms.
People with agoraphobia will also have a general fear of being in crowds, fear of being in closed spaces, or fear of losing control. They will also likely experience feelings of helplessness because of their fears.
Some of the physical symptoms that people with agoraphobia experience include shakiness, rapid heart rate, sweating, numbness, upset stomach and diarrhea, chest pain, hyperventilating, feelings of sickness, difficulties swallowing, and flushing or chills. Some people might even experience symptoms that are so bad that they fear dying. Most people will experience these symptoms for anywhere from several minutes to an hour when they have a panic attack.
Treatment for Agoraphobia
There are two basic types of treatment for agoraphobia: therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one type of approach in which the therapist and the patient will talk through the irrational fears. In this type of therapy, the goal is to challenge irrational fears by engaging in rational conversations.
Another approach is to use desensitization techniques to help a person grow accustomed to situations that incite the anxiety and fear. For instance, a person with agoraphobia might start by leaving their home if they rarely do it. Later, they can get on the bus or go to a crowded shopping mall. As they see that nothing negative happens when they engage in these activities, they’ll begin to learn that they don’t need to be anxious about these situations.
A mental healthcare provider might also encourage the patient to engage in self-care techniques that are designed to relax them. For instance, the patient might choose to meditate or do other activities that are designed to relax the mind and body.
There are a few types of medications that are commonly used with anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia. For instance, some mental healthcare providers might prescribe an SSRI, which is a class of drugs that it specifically used in treatment of depression but can also be effective for people who are suffering from some anxiety disorders. Some other types of drugs that are used to treat agoraphobia include sedatives and anxiolytic drugs.
Benefits for People with Agoraphobia
In order to qualify for social security disability benefits, the person must be diagnosed with agoraphobia by a medical professional. Since Agoraphobia and panic disorder are so closely related, the steps for attaining SSDI benefits for agoraphobia are very similar to those for attaining benefits for panic disorder.
Some of the things that a person must show in order to attain benefits include an unpredictable episode of intense dread at least one time throughout a seven-day period of time. Additionally, the symptoms of agoraphobia must prevent the person from focusing on tasks, taking care of themselves, leaving the home, or functioning well with other people.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) expects that the person seeking benefits either have an inordinate fear of at least two situations, such as public transportation, being in a line, or being out in public, or they have to have panic attacks followed by the fear of more panic attacks. In addition to at least one of these two symptoms, a person must also exhibit one or more mental symptoms, such as a poor ability to understand, remember, or apply information; an inability to interact well with others; difficulties concentrating or maintaining pace, and an inability to adapt and manage themselves.
People who are experiencing agoraphobia but are outside of the listing’s requirements might still be able to build a claim if they can’t adapt to working outside of the home.
When building a case to apply for benefits for agoraphobia, one of the most important things that the person must do is have a detailed history of the symptoms recorded with a medical provider. Agoraphobia sufferers should also gather evidence of the treatments that they’ve tried to manage and lessen their fears and symptoms.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal an existing denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Agoraphobia, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.