Can I get disability for disorders related to trauma and stress?

St. Louis residents might be under the impression that Social Security disability is for those who have obvious conditions that render them unable to work and that qualifying mental conditions are limited to those with disorders that are clear to the eye. However, people who have suffered from trauma or stress and subsequently develop mental disorders can seek Social Security disability benefits for mental conditions. Understanding the criteria is key before applying.

Disorders linked to trauma and stress stem from the person experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or stressful event. It is also related to learning of a traumatic event that happened to a family member or close friend, causing a psychological impact with clinical issues with functioning after it has happened. There might be dreams, flashbacks, worrisome memories and other problems related to the traumatic or stressful experience. They might avoid certain situations and show a reduced interest for participating in various activities. The person could have negative emotional states and a failure to feel positive emotions. There could be anxiety, irascibility, aggressive behaviors and trouble sleeping. The person might be quicker to startle and have trouble concentrating.

To show that the person is suffering from disorders related to trauma or stress, there must be medical documentation showing all the following: the exposure to violence, serious injury or the threat of death; an involuntary re-experiencing of the event; avoidance of any external reminder of it; mood and behavior disturbances; and an increase in reactive behaviors such as sleep problems. There must also be a limitation of one or marked limitation of two of the following: understanding, remembering or applying information; interacting with others; problems concentrating, persisting or pacing; or the inability to adapt or manage oneself. Finally, it must be categorized as serious and persistent with medical documentation of this being in place for a minimum of two years and evidence of the following: ongoing care with medical treatment, mental health care, psychosocial support, or a highly structured environment; and the person has a minimal capacity to adapt to environmental changes or demands that are not part of the everyday life.

For those who are experiencing stress or trauma from a past event with it negatively affecting their ability to function, filing for disability benefits is an option to explore. Speaking to an attorney who can assist with Social Security disability claims can help.

Source:, “12.15 Trauma- and stressor-related disorders,” accessed on Mar. 6, 2017

Practice Areas

Military Law
Family Law
Social Security Disability
Worker’s Compensation
Personal Injury