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Impairment focus: anxiety disorders

More than 50 years ago, May was designated Mental Health Month to raise awareness about mental health, to promote understanding and acceptance, and to encourage those with mental health disorders to seek treatment. Although the stigma surrounding mental health has significantly decreased, many California residents who suffer from mental disorders continue to struggle privately, unaware of the myriad of treatment options available to them.

Because of this, we chose to spotlight anxiety disorders for this week's impairment focus (we will focus on depression in next week's post). In addition, many are unaware that mental disorders are included on the Social Security Administration's listing of impairments. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, an applicant must show that the illness renders them unable to participate in work or daily activities.

More than 40 million Americans are diagnosed with anxiety disorders every year, making them among the most common mental illnesses in the United States. Anxiety disorders come in several different forms, and they often coexist with one another or with separate physical or mental disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is marked by chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday duties and activities. It is commonly accompanied by physical symptoms, such as nausea, muscle tension, headache or fatigue. Physical and emotional symptoms must persist for at least six months to qualify for such a diagnosis.

Panic Disorder is characterized by sudden feelings of terror accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, and an accelerated heart rate. This occurrence is more commonly known as a panic attack.

A traumatic event, such as war, sexual assault or child abuse, or a natural disaster, is the precursor for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Symptoms generally include flashbacks, nightmares, anger, irritability, distraction and depression.

There are several other diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of anxiety disorders. If you or a loved one is suffering from any of these symptoms, you may want to help seek treatment.

Source: Mental Health America, "Mental Health Month"

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