Mental Disorders

The evaluation of disability on the basis of mental disorders requires:

  • documentation of a medically determinable impairment(s) (MDI),
  • consideration of the degree of limitation such impairment(s) may impose on the claimant’s ability to work, and
  • consideration of whether these limitations have lasted or are expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

The listings for mental disorders are arranged in nine diagnostic categories:

  • organic mental disorders (Listing 12.02);
  • schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders (12.03);
  • affective disorders (12.04);
  • mental retardation (12.05);
  • anxiety-related disorders (12.06);
  • somatoform disorders (12.07);
  • personality disorders (12.08);
  • substance addiction disorders (12.09); and
  • autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders (12.10).

As can be seen from the broader categories above, Social Security’s disability listings for mental disorders include a wide range of conditions, including depression-related illness, anxiety-related disorders, psychotic disorders, autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, mental retardation (intellectual developmental disorder) and low IQ.

The listings for mental disorders contain specific requirements or criteria that the disorders must “meet” to be considered disabling. However, even if your disorder does not “meet” the listing, if you can prove you cannot do even a simple, unskilled job due to emotional, psychiatric, or brain-related problems, you could qualify for disability benefits due to a mental impairment.

The Basics of Mental Health and Disability

Mental Illness and Social Security Disability
An overview of how the Social Security Administration evaluates mental illness claims.

Mental Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) in a Disability Claim
Your RFC identifies what kind of work activities you can do despite your impairment(s) and treatment (such as antidepressant medication).

Mental Assessment Form for Your Doctor to Fill Out
If your doctor fills out an assessment form detailing your mental limitations, the Social Security claims handler may consider it in evaluating your RFC.

Review Your Disability File Before Appealing a Mental Disability Claim
If you’ve applied for Social Security disability based upon mental or emotional conditions, here’s what to look for when you review your own claim file.

Depression and Mood Disorders

Social Security Disability and SSI for Depression
If your depression is so severe that it seriously limits your activities of daily living then you may qualify for disability benefits.

Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability
A bipolar disorder is typically comprised of episodes of depression mixed with episodes of mania can make it difficult to work.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorder: Qualifying for Social Security Disability
Learn how a severe anxiety disorder may qualify for disability.

SSDI and/or SSI for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD, which is characterized by extreme emotional disturbance, may qualify for disability.

Psychotic Disorders

Disability Benefits for Claimants Suffering From a Schizoaffective Disorder
Disability applicants suffering from a schizoaffective disorder can qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance and SSI benefits.

Social Security Disability Benefits and Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia patients may qualify for Social Security disability, especially where the medical records evidence that they are limited in functioning socially, focusing on tasks, or in other ways.

Brain Disorders That Affect Mental Function

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Disability
You may qualify for disability due to a TBI, so long as the inability to work lasts for at least one year.

Memory Loss and Disability Benefits
If you have memory loss that is quantifiable and the memory problems interfere with your personal, social, or work functions, you may qualify for disability benefits.

Developmental Disabilities and Autism

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD and ADHD) and Social Security Disability

Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Alcohol and Drug Use or Abuse
Can you really get disability if you are a drug or alcohol addict? What if you are not an addict, but use alcohol or drugs?

Mental Consultative Exams

Mental Evaluations in Social Security Disability and SSI Claims.

Questions on Mental Disability

What are the Common Reasons Mental Impairment Claims Are Denied?
Two common reasons mental health claims are denied are: (1) Missing or poor treatment records and (2) noncompliance with recommended treatment, including taking medication as prescribed.

Can I Receive Disability Benefits Because of Severe, Chronic Insomnia?
Social Security is not likely to grant a disability claim for insomnia alone, but it may help  you qualify for benefits when combined with other physical or mental impairments.

Can I get Social Security Disability Benefits for Borderline Personality Disorder?
You may qualify for disability benefits with BPD if the condition is so sever that it makes you have trouble conforming to social expectations, working and/or keeping a job.

What Mental Health Symptoms is Social Security Looking For to Approve a Claim for Social Security Disability or SSI?
Social Security does not focus on an individual’’s specific symptoms. Social Security looks at the claimant’s overall functional capacity in light of the claimant’s condition(s).

What Are “Episodes of Decompensation”?
Episodes of Decompensation are times when the claimant has difficulties in performing activities of daily living, maintaining social relationships, or maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. If a claimant has frequent, sustained or extended periods of decompensation, then he or she may qualify for disability.

How Does Special Education and Difficulty in School Relate to Getting Disability?
School records can demonstrate limited ability to learn or perform job tasks, and may therefore be important for adults claiming disability, even where the claimant is primarily alleging physical impairments.