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PTSD: A disabling condition


People typically develop posttraumatic stress disorder after witnessing or surviving traumatic or dangerous events. This disorder physically alters the structure and chemistry of the brain, resulting in lingering debilitating effects. Some victims even suffer such severe impairments that they qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, as any Tennessee SSD attorney could attest.

Disruptive symptoms

PTSD can cause various symptoms that limit a person's ability to work, interact with others and perform basic tasks. According to the National Institutes of Health, most PTSD symptoms can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Reliving the event - some people experience nightmares, flashbacks and disturbing thoughts about the traumatic event.
  • Overstimulation - victims of PTSD may feel edgy, agitated, quick to anger or easily startled. They might also experience physical symptoms of hyperarousal.
  • Apathy and avoidance - some victims cut out activities and other stimuli that remind them of the traumatic experience. Other victims lose interest in activities, feel numb or experience unwanted emotions, such as guilt.

Due to these varied effects, treating severe or disabling PTSD can be difficult. Many victims may require medication to manage depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia or a combination of these conditions. Unfortunately, as the number of medications taken increases, a person's risk of contraindications or adverse side effects rises.

Different forms of psychotherapy, including exposure therapy and cognitive therapy, may also be employed to treat PTSD. While these treatments may help alleviate symptoms, they cannot "cure" PTSD. As any Tennessee SSD attorney would agree, victims may still experience unexpected and debilitating symptoms at any time.


If persistent, severe symptoms of PTSD limit a person's ability to work, seeking SSD benefits may be an option. People who are not earning more than $1,090 per month in 2015 may be eligible for these benefits. However, proving PTSD is disabling can be challenging.

Social Security considers PTSD and other anxiety-related disorders disabling if victims can document specific symptoms and limitations. People seeking SSD benefits must show they suffer from one recognized symptom, such as flashbacks. Victims also must establish two everyday limitations, such as difficulty performing activities of daily living or an inability to function socially. These issues can be documented through personal descriptions, reports from a professional and statements from personal sources.

Even if a person doesn't meet these criteria, a claims examiner may find that PTSD effectively prohibits the person from working. Many PTSD symptoms, such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating or fatigue from poor sleep, may adversely affect a person's work. Anxiety and hyperarousal also might make working closely with others difficult. As any Tennessee SSD attorney knows, people who document these symptoms might be able to receive benefits by qualifying for medical-vocational allowances.

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