Can I Get Disability for IBS?

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IBS is a very common health condition that causes the digestive system to function improperly. It is estimated to affect more than 1 in 10 people across the globe.

IBS causes food to move more slowly through your intestines, accompanied by strong cramps. 

Symptoms of IBS can range from abdominal cramps to diarrhea and constipation. The condition can have real impacts on your day-to-day life and can reduce your ability to function. 

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

IBS causes are not known. It is theorized that the condition can be caused by oversensitive nerves in your gut, stress, or as a result of genetics.

Food passing through your digestive system too quickly or slowly has also been linked to the condition.

IBS is not currently curable and is a lifelong condition. While this is unfortunate, with a modified diet and lifestyle changes the condition can be managed and controlled. 

What Are The Symptoms Of IBS?

IBS symptoms can vary in severity. Many sufferers will experience flare-ups periodically, where their symptoms are much worse. These flare-ups can last anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks. 

Common symptoms of IBS are stomach cramps, bloating, trapped wind, and excessive flatulence. You may also experience diarrhea, constipation, or notice mucus in the stools that you pass.

You are also likely to feel general abdominal discomfort and nausea.

IBS can impact other parts of your body, aside from just the digestive system. Halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, is a common comorbidity with irritable bowel syndrome.

Headaches, a frequent need to urinate, muscle and joint pain are other common side effects of IBS. If you are a person who menstruates, you may notice irregularities in your cycle too.

What Are The Requirements For Disability benefits?

In order to qualify for disability benefits, you will need to have your condition classified as severe under the SSA (Social Security Administration) guidelines.

This means that you must be able to prove that your IBS severely impairs your ability to perform basic life or work functions. 

The SSA states that a severe impairment must significantly limit your mental or physical ability to do basic work activities.

These could include carrying objects, speaking, carrying out simple tasks, and dealing with change.

As well as this, you must be able to prove that the impacts have been felt for more than 12 months, or are predicted to outlast this time period.

The condition will also prevent you from earning over $1,310 a month.

The best way to prove that the effects of your condition have longevity is to consistently raise it as an issue with your physician.

They will be able to log this in your medical records and give you a written record that can be backdated.

There are a number of qualifying conditions on the SSA website. IBS is not one of them, but this does not mean you do not qualify for disability benefits.

It may just be a more arduous process to get your claim approved. 

What Can Be Used As Medical Evidence?

IBS can be difficult to show the impacts of. It is a good idea to ask your physician to send you for an MRI or X-ray. The imaging can then be used as part of your case to be submitted to SSA.

As mentioned before, you should have a detailed record of your medical notes to verify the severity and longevity of your condition.

Supplemental to this, you will need a letter from your physician detailing the specifics of how your condition impacts your life. 

If you think that your IBS is caused or exacerbated by another condition, such as stress or anxiety, you should mention this in your SSA application.

The administration needs to consider all variables in your life and medical history before they make their decision. 

Be aware that if you are mentioning mental illness, your physician must make it clear that these are secondary to and as a consequence of your IBS.

Disability benefits for mental health conditions are limited to 12 to 24 months. This means that at most, you would only receive 2 years’ worth of benefits, irrespective of whether your condition outlasts this time.


As part of the disability benefits claim analysis, your insurance company will need evidence to suggest that you are taking appropriate steps to manage your condition.

As there is no foolproof treatment for IBS, it can be easy for the insurance provider to say you are non-compliant.

One of the best ways to manage the symptoms of IBS is through dietary changes. There are a number of foods known to worsen IBS, such as dairy and alcohol.

Your physician will probably suggest you eliminate these foods from your diet. At the same time, they might tell you to boost the fiber intake in your diet. Fiber is known to help alleviate IBS symptoms in some cases.

As anxiety can be a trigger for flare-ups, you will need to reduce your stress levels as much as possible. If you struggle to do this, it may be worth seeking counseling for coping strategies.

If this is not accessible to you, there are a number of free apps such as Headspace that can assist you with self-coping mechanisms.

If these adaptations do not help, there are a few medications that your physician might prescribe.

Commonly prescribed medications include laxatives, antispasmodic medications, and tricyclic antidepressants. Laxatives can help to relieve symptoms of severe constipation.

Antispasmodic medications are useful to alleviate abdominal cramps, as are tricyclic antidepressants. 

It is vital that you regularly check in with your physician throughout the treatment period. This will prove to your insurance company that you are complying with treatment as far as possible. 

SSA judgment

When the SSA reviews your claim, they will look at your past work and see if your IBS has impaired you. This will involve reviewing your medical notes and your testimony.

They may also choose to perform a medical examination using their own doctors. To give your case credibility, it is often beneficial to visit a gastroenterologist for an assessment before submitting your claim.

This gives an increased weight to the physician’s assessment and makes your claim more likely to be approved.

Once this has happened, they will then issue you with an RFC rating (residual functional capacity).

This rating will categorize you into your working capability – sedentary, light, or medium. If your RFC rating aligns with the category of your past job the SSA will deny your disability claim. 

If your past job does not match with your RFC rating, the SSA will then decide if you are capable of any work. Often, if your IBS decreases your productivity by 20% or more, you will be awarded your claim.

This is because this level of impairment will likely prevent you from keeping a job. 

The final step of the assessment involves the SSA evaluating your past work experience, RFC rating, education, and age.

It is often easier for older claimants to win their benefits as the SSA believes it is harder for older people to pick up new skills or adjust to a new career. 

Here are more articles about living with IBS:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Kelly Chow

    Kelly first experienced IBS symptoms at the age of 24 with major-to-severe symptoms. She underwent all types of tests and experimented with many treatments before finally finding ways to manage her symptoms. Kelly has written and shared ebooks and Gluten-Free diet plans that she has used to live life like she did before IBS.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.

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