Organic mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amnesia, delirium, and dementia are mental disorders which are the result of developmental abnormalities in the brain. In some instances, these disorders may be genetic. However, they may also be caused by trauma such as injury, illness, or a defect in hormonal balances or other aspects of body chemistry. Mental disorders caused by drug or alcohol abuse are not categorized as organic mental disorders.
The tests used to determine whether a person has an organic mental disorder vary widely depending on which type of organic mental disorder they are being tested for. Likewise, treatments available for different types of organic mental disorders differ considerably. Most involve medication, though some therapies have also been found to be helpful.
Common symptoms of the various organic mental disorders include; memory loss (especially short term memory loss), confusion, loss of cognitive ability or brain function, and irritability. The qualifications for Social Security Disability benefits based on organic mental disorders differ with the particular disorder, but generally involve a medical diagnosis showing not only the organic cause of your disability but also documentation showing that you have displayed the more common symptoms of organic mental disorders.
In the case of some organic mental disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the standards are fairly clear cut, and claimants are likely to have little trouble getting their Social Security Disability claims accepted. In fact, Alzheimer’s patients will generally qualify for a compassionate allowance, which allows them to bypass some of the hurdles most people face when applying for Social Security Disability benefits and start receiving benefits in as little as three weeks. Those who qualify for such compassionate allowances will also receive Medicare immediately instead of needing to sit through the standard two year waiting period.
Organic Mental Disorders and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work
When the symptoms are severe enough, organic mental disorders can make it impossible to perform any kind of significant work. The memory loss and sense of confusion makes many physical jobs dangerous for organic mental disorder sufferers, and dangerous to those around them.
In determining your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA will look at how severe your symptoms are and exactly how they impact your ability to perform the work which you have done in the past. They will also consider whether there is any other type of work for which you might still be qualified despite your organic mental condition. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you need to show that you are incapable of doing work which involves any level of physical exertion, including lifting as little as ten pounds on a regular basis and 25 pounds on an occasional basis.
Of course, Organic mental disorders don’t directly impact your ability to lift weight or to perform other physical tasks. However, the SSA will often find that you are unable to do the physical work because you are unable to concentrate on it.
Organic Mental Disorders and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work
Because most sedentary work requires some degree of concentration (and usually the ability to work and communicate with other people), you will often find it easier to demonstrate that you have lost the ability to perform sedentary work than physical work. Of course, the particulars vary with each individual case, but most people with an organic mental disorder will have little trouble convincing the SSA that they are unable to concentrate long enough to successfully hold a sedentary job.
If you are trying to claim Social Security Disability benefits due to an organic mental disorder, you should make sure that you comply with all doctor’s requests (your doctor and any the SSA provides) and that you follow all treatment prescribed. If your initial claim is denied (as they often are), consider hiring a Social Security Disability attorney to help you during the appeals process.