Small Biotope

Is social phobia a disability?

Can you get Social Security disability benefits for social phobia? The short answer is yes.

However, knowing that a condition can be disabling does not tell you HOW to prove that social phobia is disabling in your case.

As in any Social Security disability case, you have to show that social phobia keeps you from being able to engage in a substantial gainful activity (SGA).

Social phobia most likely affects your ability to work by making it impossible for you to have more than very occasional contact with the public, co-workers, or supervisors. That would be the workplace limitation that would preclude most kinds of substantial gainful activity and prevent you from being able to work.

You can prove this limitation by obtaining supporting statements showing isolation, difficulty interacting with others, avoiding social events — or avoiding contact with others during social events, going to the store to shop at 1:00 in the morning to avoid dealing with others.

Several of my clients have shared with me that they have left their groceries at the check out line because there were suddenly too many people in line, or there was some kind of commotion, or some other problem.

These cases are very personal.  There is no recipe guaranteed to win your Social Security claim. But, if you just can’t be around people, if you avoid contact, even with people you like, you may qualify for Social Security.

It is often helpful to enlist the aid of an attorney, or even a family member, to help you list all the ways social phobia/social anxiety disorder affects your ability to function.  Then figure out ways to document these problems.

Of course, as I have talked about many times before, medical records are critical.  But, especially in social phobia cases, you will need to go beyond the medical records when developing your case.

  • Anonymous

    This was helpful, but I would have liked a littrle bit more information on the causes and how to deal, etc. Or even something on how disabilitating it can be. but i suppose there are many ways in which it can be disabling, or harmful. or maybe you could include some ways to cope, get through panic attacks, etc. (i have one idea, i take vitamins that are supposed to calm and relax you- works wonders on me, but i am mildly phobic.

  • Gordon Gates

    I completely agree that it is necessary to go beyond the medical evidence to develop a claim like this.
    One way to document the effects of social phobia is to keep a journal:

  • Gordon Gates

    I completely agree that it is necessary to go beyond the medical evidence to develop a claim like this.
    One way to document the effects of social phobia is to keep a journal:

  • micheal

    hello if your on coounsulin but not getting better after several years and taking medicine also than thats a way to claim disability thank you.

  • Lasha

    I have a question. My boyfriend suffers from social phobia. He goes to college but every night before he stresses out and then in the morning he pukes. He can't get a job because hes too nervous to ask for an application because he doesn't want to talk to anybody, and then when he does get a job he quits because he cant handle the stress everyday before going to work. Would he be able to apply for disability? He doesnt want to stress everyday about not having a job, but hes too nervous/scared to try and get a job.

  • TomaszStasiuk

    Thanks for your comment Lasha!

    The only answer I can give is “maybe.” I have helped people with similar problems. However, there is no guarantee. Also, the fact that he is able to still go to school (with extreme difficulty, but he makes it) adds another wrinkle to the case.

    As much as I would like to give a more detailed answer, I cannot evaluate cases or offer legal advice via comments or email (my malpractice carrier would have a fit). But, there are lots of opportunities to talk to an attorney.

    If you are in Colorado, feel free to call me at (719) 630-1225 or (800) 407-0166 and we can talk about your boyfriend's case. If you are outside of Colorado, call an attorney in your area and discuss his case.

    It sounds like he has been through quite a bit. Please give him my best.

    Tomasz M. Stasiuk

    A Whole Mess of Legalese:
    Information contained on the website and responses to comments and email is general information about the Social Security system and is not legal advice.  The information on this site may not be appropriate for the specific circumstances of a particular case and should not be used without obtaining legal advice.  For a review of the specific circumstances of your case, contact an attorney for a consultation.  The Stasiuk Firm is available for consultations by telephone at (719) 630-1225 or (800) 407-016.  No attorney-client relationship is formed via unsolicited communications with the website or office.  No representation is provided without a validly executed fee agreement signed by the Stasiuk Firm and the client (or their representative).  Phew!

  • amelia

    My name is Amelia. I have social anxiety too.


    for employment opportunities for others with social anxiety disorder. Work from home and make a decent income. Try it out!!!

  • Nick

    check out my new blog on social anxiety disorder. it’s a self help site. click on the adds and they will go toward paying for my upcoming book. thanks, Nick

  • Dia

    I'm going to try and keep this short and simple.

    I have suffered from some fashion of social phobia since I was in middle school. It progressivly got worse in high school. I couldn't stand to be around people…the thought of interacting with my classmates would make me physically sick. I almost failed my senior year because I missed so many days. The only reason I made it through college (a one year technical school chosen for how quickly I could obtain my degree) was because I was able to lose myself in the books. I would arrive at class early so I wouldn't have to walk into a room that was already full. I only interacted with the students if a project required it.

    I find it hard to keep a job. My last jot I worked as a customer service representative at a call center. I thought that not dealing with people face to face would alleviate some of my fears. I was wrong. Being stuck on a floor with 200 other people talking was devastating. I started getting daily migraines and had to give my job up.

    I fear going anywhere…Even just to the grocery store. My heart races and most of the time I feel like I'm on the verge of a full on panic attack. I don't go out with my friends and rarely see them. I even panic when it comes to seeing some of my closest friends! Since I quit my job I've noticed I've become more withdrawn…the idea of having to get a job and interact with people terrifies me.

    I don't want to be one of those people that doesn't try….I've taken medications and tried counseling. I read the legalese and know this doesn't constitue as advice ;), but I was wondering if it comes down to this if this would be a possible course of action for myself?

    Thank you for your time (and sorry for the life story!).

  • TomaszStasiuk

    I can't tell you that you will win, but if your condition keeps you
    from being able to do full time work, I believe you might have a case.

  • CJ

    This is gonna be a long ramble, so I'm sorry, but here goes….

    I haven't been “officially” diagnosed with S.A.D, because I can't afford the psych visits or insurance, and don't qualify for assistance. Things were generally okay for a few years, atleast so I thought (hindsight's 20/20). Apparently it started creeping up on me a few years ago, and I just didn't realize it until it got quite noticable.

    Now, I spend almost all day everyday in my bedroom. When my roommate comes home from work I'll usually sit in the livingroom with him, but anytime he leaves the room I have to know where he's going, and if he's gone too long I go looking for him. When he leaves the house, I once again end up back in the bedroom. If he is gone overnight, I stay awake until I am simply so exauhsted that I HAVE to sleep, and then I do it with a loaded gun less than 2 ft away. I constantly think I'm hearing people moving around the house, or picking at the doors. I won't go out and check the mail unless it's the middle of the night when I know everybody around us is asleep and there are no cars anywhere in sight. If I have to get something out of my car, I watch through the front windows until I am certain there is nobody around, and then run to the car and back.

    I have ended up trapped in my car in the driveway before because I went to get something out of it and there were a large number of families playing ball across the street. I sat in the car with the doors locked for almost an hour, shaking, watching in the mirrors to see if anybody was looking my direction, until finally I got out and ran inside the house.

    I don't go to the store anymore. Even if I go to the grocery when almost nobody is there, I can't handle it. I start shaking and feeling like I'm going to be sick. I can't go down isles with other people because I can't stop looking over my shoulder. I went with my roommate to AutoZone once, and the whole time we were standing in line to check out I was shaking, nervous, sick to my stomach, sweating and dizzy. I couldn't shake the feeling for about a half hour after we left.

    I have evening classes at a tech school 3 nights a week and I don't always make it to them. There are some nights when I am so upset that I can't leave the house. Sometimes I make it to the school, but can't get out of the car to go into class. I sit in the parking lot for up to an hour, and then turn around and go home. I have taken failing grades before for refusing to read a report in class, because as soon as the teacher would call me I would feel sick and start shaking, all the color would drain from my face and I couldn't talk or stand.

    Anytime I'm out driving, if I happen to get lost in an area I'm not familiar with, I immediately start to panic. In my desperate desire to get out back where I'm sposed to be, I typically start speeding, making hasty decisions, taking more wrong turns, and overall getting even more lost. My brain starts racing so fast that I can't think of a logical way to turn around and go back the way I came.

    I don't go out with friends anymore, what few I still have. I can't get past the feeling that if I go out with somebody, then something bad is going to happen. I tried looking for one or two people that I could talk to online and become friends with that maybe eventually I could start hanging out with, to try and get back out in the world. But as soon as they start talking about going to movies and such together, I immediately get stressed and sick and start wondering why they're so eager to meet and what they're really up to…and that ends the conversation. So I've given up on that.

    I am pretty sure this is S.A.D, but with no way to see a doc, I can't prove it. I've tried going to psychs in the past, but we never made any headway. I would freak when they started asking personal questions and would get defensive, then they would get frustrated, and eventually soon after I just wouldn't go back.

    • Rose

      You don’t have SAD, you have paranoid schitzophrenia.

      If you had SAD, you would go into your bedroom as soon as your roommate got home, not the other way around, and you would feel relief when he left.

  • cassandra

    hi am 23 i feel am stuck with this for life i dont know where to turn i cant communicate with people even people i know i really i want to get a job but am to shy to use a phone or even go to the job centre to look for a job or even sighn on. i want to get help to get over this and function in this world and get a good job and support myself at the moment my boyfriend supports me. i've been like this since i was little people said i would grow out of it but i seem to be getting worse.

  • cassandra

    hi am 23 i feel am stuck with this for life i dont know where to turn i cant communicate with people even people i know i really i want to get a job but am to shy to use a phone or even go to the job centre to look for a job or even sighn on. i want to get help to get over this and function in this world and get a good job and support myself at the moment my boyfriend supports me. i've been like this since i was little people said i would grow out of it but i seem to be getting worse.

  • joe

    I filled for ssi in 2007 for social anxiety disorder and was of course rejected. I think social security looks at people that file for ssi because of social anxiety disorder as scammers or people who are lazy and just faking it. which is totally not the case with me i want to work. I wish everyday i could go out and have a normal job and make decent money instead of applying for ssi which is not enough to live on. It's just so hard to go out in public it's a huge ordeal just to leave the house for a quick errand.

    • Ned

      When you filed, did you have medical documentation? Were you diagnosed by a regular doctor, or by a psychiatrist? Did you have a GAF score or something else that rated your limitations? I know some mental health clinics also have forms to rate your level of functioning as if your impairment is “marked.”

  • Ashley Cox

    I am 20 years old, I'm afraid to leave my house, even talking on the phone is difficult for me, I rarely ever go to the doctor, and I can't hold a job to pay for it anyway. Sometimes I think that I should just go ahead and kill myself because I'm so trapped in this life that there is no other way out. Could you maybe tell me how to even begin to apply for this kind of thing let alone prove it? I don't go to stores at all let alone at 1 am, I don't leave my house very much, if at all. I have panic attacks that my doctor proscribed a generic version of xantax and prozac for, and my perscription has run out. My dad just walked out on the family and if I don't do something, me, my younger brother, my dog and my mom are going to end up homeless.

    I feel like it's all my fault, why can't I get a life? Drive, talk to friends, get a job, do anything? I know most people in the world don't give a damn about other people.

    The only friend I have is my dog, if it weren't for him I probably would have just blown my brains out a long time ago.

    I don't know what to do at all, can you tell me how to even get started? Please, I'm desperate, my mom needs me. It's not like I've ever been much use to her before.

  • TomaszStasiuk

    An individual can apply for Social Security online at, by calling the toll free Social Security number (1-800-772-1213), or by visiting the local SSA office.

    If it gets to be too much, friends, family and the help of a good lawyer can make it easier.

  • Deb

    With regards to having Social Phobia/Anxiety. Does it help to mention all the continuous problems you’ve had with people at the work environment? People with Social Phobia tend to be socially awkward to where they get targeted just like in school. So say I get made fun of at every place I’ve work at because I’m awkward. And there are always people at every place I’ve worked at trying to get me fired because I’m “odd” or “weird”. And I end up having a lot of problems in the work environment with everyone always trying to get me fired in which I’ve gotten fired from these jobs because of these people.

    i.e. something wrong happens at work. And these people that make fun of me are the ones who say to the boss that I did it when they don’t even who did it. They just use me as a scapegoat everytime because I don’t socialize with people and act awkard which is caused by my disorder. And that happens at every job.

    • TomaszStasiuk

      It’s nice to be able to give a short answer.


      Everything you mention can be brought up. It is also often a good idea to have the individual’s lawyer lawyer try to get documentation of these events through written testimony or witnesses at hearing.

      • Deb

        I don’t think there would be any witnesses. In order to have a witness, you have to have someone who is your friend and care to provide testimony. If you had no friends in the work environment, then you have no witness testimony. But I do have counseling sessions where I’ve discussed my workplace problems with my counselor. So, I say could use my counselors testimony. I think I’ll see my counselor to see if he will write a letter describing my limitations. As they do GAF scores, and also have forms about your activity of daily living. So, I say he could use that to write a letter explaining how I can’t work because of my psych problems. That may help get me approved 1st thing.

        I did talk to some attorneys. But all they cared about were what docs I’ve seen in the past year. Even though I’ve been dealing with these things for 10 years even though I may not have seen a doc every month about it. I did talk to an advocate, but they were kind of harsh as I told them about my many physical and mental impairments. So, I guess they were concerned about my testimony not being credible. I did mention about asking for accommodations from employers in the past under the ADA. And I guess they didn’t like that either.

      • Ewingcakes

        You sound very supportive to others,do you have social phobia also?

        • TomaszStasiuk

          Fortunately, no. However, a number of my clients have. 

  • vanessa

    Hi, I have been on disabiilty for five years now. but i stopped going to the doctor because i was so afraid. I am on review now, how do i prove i’m still disabled? I have no friends, i avoid my family.

    • Ewingcakes

      Wow,sounds so like my situation,I’m so fearful to go to the dr.,just going to the hospital is just ,,,can’t even describe,too scary,been on ssdi few years now,so grateful,but now so worried they say ssdi runs out of money in 6 years,don’t know what I will do,i have thought of ending my life,being around people is death to me anyway,thanks for reading,Edward.

      • TomaszStasiuk

        Social Security isn’t going to “run out of money.” It’s a matter of less money coming in than going out. However, as the US has operated with a deficit for quite some time. And the notion of maintaining a deficit is even one of the early precepts of this country (see Alexander Hamilton). So, the possibility of Social Security running on a deficit for a period of time is not out of the question. The bigger issue is the push to cut expenses on those who are not paying their “fair share.” That philosophy is more likely to lead to cuts in services and benefits for the poor, elderly, and disabled.

  • TomaszStasiuk

    Hi, Vanessa. Every case is different so it is very difficult to make general statements about how to prove a case. Especially, when I can’t say, “make sure SSA gets your medical records.”

    Personally, I recommend working with a lawyer to help figure out the best way to develop your case. However, it can be difficult during a comparison review since there are no back benefits to be used for fees (since the benefits are still being paid).

    When an individual seriously isolates themselves (avoiding doctors, friends, family, etc), it may help to get letters documenting this isolation, the types of events they have refused to go (church, family get-togethers, dinners, children’s sporting events, weddings, funerals, avoiding family and friends visiting from out of state). There is in addition to documenting other examples of avoiding public situations (not shopping until past midnight, leaving stores if too crowded, leaving groceries and walking out if too noisy, sitting in the back at events, leaving events early, doing telephone meeting with children’s school instead of attending school conferences). There is no limit to the possible ways of documenting this.

    • ik

      I’d recommend to people who feel this is happening or is going to happen with regards to avoiding their doctor/psychiatrist because of a mental illness. To see the doctor and have them document that your mental illness is causing problems with your ability to actually see doctors. That way if there is a gap in treatment, or no recent treatment. Then at least it would be documented that the person’s mental illness was causing problems and/or preventing them from seeing the doctor. That would probably be better than having nothing documented as to why you haven’t been seeing your doctor.

  • sarah

    I’m 25 yrs. old, and have been dealing with some social phobia since around middle school. I can’t say exactly what is wrong, I’m too scared to go see doctors.The last time I went was years ago, and i was told it was only social anxiety. I hardly leave the house, let alone my room. I have panic attacks almost daily. I’ve distanced myself from friends, and hardly talk to family.The only time I really do get out is to the grocery store. I feel trapped, and sometimes leave on that fact alone. Someone has to go with me now, in case I feel too panicked and have to step outside. I have palpitations that keep me up at night. I have filed for disability,and was denied. I’m trying to complete an appeal. I’m having a hard time explaining my disability, I feel everything I think of or write down is stupid, and have difficulty with someone reading something I have written, for fear of them judgeing me..I know it’s more than “social anxiety”, but I can’t get past feeling like an idiot for the reasons i have for not functioning like a “normal” person.. And I don’t know how to prove something is wrong with me, since I have not been to see a doctor in some time.

    • TomaszStasiuk

      Sarah, it sounds like you are dealing with serious problems.

      I am glad you applied and that you are appealing. Hang in there.

    • Amanda

      Hi Sarah.  My name is Amanda and I could have written everything you just did. I was also denied and feel hopeless. I don’t know how to involves contacting people, attorneys, doctors and hello, that’s why I applied for disability – I *can’t* do that sort of thing. I can’t make phone calls. Can’t leave my house.  I feel utterly doomed.

      • TomaszStasiuk

        Hi Amanda, thank you for sharing. While I recommend working a lawyer (we try to make it as simple as possible), I understand it can still be very difficult, to find someone and go in for appointments. In most cases, individuals can appeal online

        There are not forms to wait for the appeal can be done in the privacy of one’s own home. The online appeal walks you through each step. 

        Good luck!

      • TomaszStasiuk

        Hi Amanda, thank you for sharing. While I recommend working a lawyer (we try to make it as simple as possible), I understand it can still be very difficult, to find someone and go in for appointments. In most cases, individuals can appeal online

        There are not forms to wait for the appeal can be done in the privacy of one’s own home. The online appeal walks you through each step. 

        Good luck!

  • ViridianGym

    lol i have this but i can still over power it … the only probelm with me is my family if i had my own place i would go out anytime and welcome people to my house and be friends … but i have this fear that say if i go out my mom will ask where are u going :( and am afraid if i get bored and come back in in 20 mins so yeah i just need my own home to spread my wings in other words my life

  • anonymous

    I still live with my mother (i’m 20) but have been dealing with social anxiety. I work part-time, and I am going to be going to school (I’m off for the next semester) but there is so much anxiety in these two departments that in some respects I just want to take online classes and quit my job (which is in retail) … but, I can’t because I wouldn’t have money to pay my bills.  I don’t feel well about this issue.  I wish I could receive these benefits so I didn’t have to work but I doubt they’d give it to me since I’m technically still dependent on my mother in a lot of respects. But she doesn’t make money so..

    • TomaszStasiuk

      Social Security is not easy. The touchstone question is whether an individual is able to work and earn $1,000/month before taxes (increasing to $1,010 in 2012). If an individual’s part time work is less than that, the work would not result in an automatic denial. Social Security would have to consider if all the circumstances (work plus school in your case) suggest an ability to do full time work. So… it is possible that you might still be able to work and apply for Social Security benefits.

  • kevin

    Im so happy i finally know Im not alone.I know i have social anxiety disorder just by what Ive read hear. I have tried for disability,but never finished. The worse thing about this disability is the feeling of being stupid.Ive been told how can you not want to go out.who wants to be in the house 24/7.Me i dont ever want to go out. I dont talk on the phone either. Im 41 yo. I feel like such a loser.If i had the guts I would have killed myself a long time ago. Now i just wish for death. Its pretty sad that i wish i would get cancer and die life would be easyer.

    • TomaszStasiuk

      Hi, Kevin. It sounds like your depression is quite severe. I hope you are getting help. It can make quite a difference. If you are interested in pursuing Social Security, I don’t doubt you can get help in your area. Good luck!

  • Stranger

    I’m certain I wont get it the first time around but do you think I really would be considered for it? I’m 20 years old and I started failing school in the second grade, I’ve been shy for as long as I can remember and even went as far as avoiding skill in the first grade all the way up until the 9th grade when I dropped out. I didn’t do anything out side of school like socializing I hid in the woods until it was technically time for me to go home. I never go out, I avoid any family members who don’t live at home and a majority of the time I feel most relaxed when no one is home. I never really felt emotionally close to my class mates when I was in school no real connections.. I only leave the house when I absolutely have to.. and even then I’m scared out of my mind my heart beats fast, I talk to my self a lot trying to clam my self down, I can’t keep my fingers still and I’m filled with Anxiety as my heart rate goes up. I often think I would be better off dead sometimes since I never really lived a normal life since I’ve always been by my self.. I feel like a loser, a failure and not only that but I don’t hate anyone just my self. I also have a disorder PCOS it’s a hormone dysfunction and I’m over weight as well which makes me feel like the most ugly person on the planet even though there’s larger people than my self.. I have a terrible memory, my heart rate goes up like crazy when I’m around people I don’t know to the point my doctor almost sent me to the ER because she thought I was going to have a heart attack. I mean it takes me a lot of courage just use the phone to say order a pizza or something and I freak out too and I usually end up not doing it no matter how badly I might want it.. during holidays I avoid going out even though my family is visiting uncles, cousins and my grand parents. I often have mini episodes too where I’m mad for no reason or I remember the past or stuff that I try and suppress and have a melt down and I even just get depressed when I’m not distracted so I try and play a lot of games.. I do play MMOs but even on those I don’t really interact with people seems silly being that way on a game even I know..I usually find my self just browsing the net or rather just sit here and look at my blank screen than go out even if I’m extremely bored out of my mind. OH and also I’m lead to believe I have a form of add and some other things going on but I’m not entirely sure yet since to get these things checked mom has to set everything up for me because I can’t.I would just sit and rot rather than make phone calls but.. when shes always working and we’re quite poor it makes it difficult to find someone to see if I have these disorders or not.

    • TomaszStasiuk

      You can’t get benefits if you do not apply. Talk to someone in your area about your case and see what they think.

  • matt

    What if you were always afraid to get a job in the first place because of this phobia?

    • TomaszStasiuk

      If an individual has never worked, it may not be possible to show social phobia through workplace problems. However, there are other ways of documenting the social phobia issues. As noted in the article, these cases are often very personal, with very specific and individual sets of facts. The manner of documenting social phobia differs from case to case.