If you are between the ages of 50 and 65 years and suffer from a disability that prevents you from working, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits
What Mental Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?
Millions of Americans struggle with various types of mental disorders and conditions. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 1-in-4 adults in the United States (which translates to roughly 26 percent of the American adult population) suffer from a mental disorder in a given year. If you or a loved one was diagnosed with a mental disorder and that disorder has impacted your ability to work, you may qualify for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA).
When assessing an applicant’s eligibility for disability benefits, the SSA relies on the directives and guidelines outlined in the agency’s “Blue Book.” This is a manual setting forth which medical conditions qualify for disability benefits. Listing 12.00 of the Blue Book addresses mental disorders. Listing 12.00 provides specific details regarding which mental disorders, and what specific circumstances, make an individual eligible for disability benefits.
Eligible Mental Disorders
According to the Blue Book, there are nine categories of mental disorders that are generally eligible for disability benefits. The nine categories include:
- Addiction to substances
- Affective disorders
- Anxiety Disorders
- Organic Mental Disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders
- Somatoform disorders
No matter the type of mental disorder you were diagnosed with, it is critically important to provide sufficient evidence of your diagnosis, your treatment regimen, and the fact that you are complying with the recommended treatment plan.
Let’s take a look at each of the listed disorders in more depth.
Addiction to Substance
In order to qualify for disability benefits based on addiction to substances, you will need to submit evidence showing your substance abuse issue has caused you to meet the specific requirements provided in the Blue Book for a neurological disorder, digestive disorder, or other mental disorders.
To qualify for disability benefits with an affective disorder, you need to have medical documentation reflecting the fact that your disorder has impacted your ability to function in a work environment despite undergoing treatment. This means you need to provide evidence that you have been (i) undergoing treatment for at least two years and cannot function outside of a supportive environment; or (ii) you have evidence showing your condition hinders you from reasonably being expected to function in any work environment.
If you are applying for disability benefits based on a diagnosed anxiety disorder, you need to be ready to submit the following evidence to the SSA:
- You are struggling with chronic anxiety, including persistent bouts of irrational fear;
- You are struggling with recurring, unpredictable panic attacks on a weekly basis; and/or
- You are struggling with recurring compulsions and obsessions resulting in serious distress
- The above-described events and feelings have hindered your ability to function and maintain gainful employment.
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with autism or a similar developmental disorder, you need to be prepared to submit evidence reflecting the fact that the condition has impacted your ability to engage in the following activities:
- Participate in social interactions; and
- Participate in activities outside of a finite number of interests
In addition, you need to be capable of showing that these limitations have impacted your ability to function and maintain gainful employment.
Organic Mental Disorders
If you are attempting to pursue disability benefits based on an organic mental disorder, you need to be prepared with medical records reflecting the fact that (i) your organic mental disorder has persisted for at least two years or longer in spite of participating in treatment and (ii) that it hinders you from performing basic work functions.
To be eligible for disability benefits based upon a diagnosed personality disorder, you need to be prepared to submit evidence to the SSA reflecting the fact that your disorder has caused you to be incapable of engaging in a social environment or in the workplace. In addition, you need to provide evidence showing that your disorder has caused long-term problems in your life and ability to function. In most instances, your records need to show that you are struggling with at least one of the following symptoms associated with a personality disorder:
- Autistic thinking
- Hostility towards others
- Impulsive behavior
- Persistent mood changes
To be eligible for disability benefits based upon a diagnosed psychotic disorder, you need to be prepared to submit evidence (typically medical records) reflecting the fact that you have had this disorder for two years or longer and your disorder has significantly impacted your ability to engage in basic work functions. In most instances, the types of medical records that SSA is looking for when reviewing a benefits claims will need to show that any change in your work situation could potentially lead to more psychotic episodes or that you are incapable of engaging in work activities outside of a supportive environment.
You could also potentially qualify for disability benefits if you have one of the following conditions and are able to provide evidence reflecting the fact that your condition has negatively impacted your ability to function in a work environment:
- Disorganized behavior
- Inability to speak or incoherence
- Illogical thinking
- Isolation and emotional withdrawal
To be eligible for disability benefits based upon a diagnosed somatoform disorder, you need to be prepared to submit evidence reflecting the fact that by the age of 30, you have a documented history of unexplained physical symptoms that have lasted for several years and these symptoms have had a significant negative impact on your life and ability to engage in work activities.
When it comes to somatoform disorders, you will likely qualify for disability benefits if your symptoms include the following:
- Loss of speech
- Loss of sight;
- Loss of hearing;
- Loss of movement;
- Loss of sensations in your extremities; or
- Loss of limb use
Importance of Detailed Medical Records for Mental Disorders
If you are seeking disability benefits based upon a mental disorder, a key component that could be the deciding factor on whether you are granted benefits is the medical records submitted with your application. This is why you need to make sure to include all relevant medical records from your treating doctors, including:
- Pharmacy records substantiating the prescription medications you are taking for your disorder;
- Records from psychiatrists;
- Records from psychologists;
- Records from therapists;
- Records from counselors; and/or
- Hospitalizations or emergency room records
Learn More about Your Eligibility for Disability Benefits
If you or a loved one was diagnosed with a mental disorder and are unable to work, it is important to take action and assess your eligibility for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration. You can learn more about your legal options by filling out the free evaluation form on this page.