The Social Security Administration recognizes a wide variety of mental disorders as having the potential to cause total long term disability. In order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on a mental disorder, your condition must be diagnosed by a doctor and meet the criteria which any other illness or injury must meet in order to qualify for disability, namely:
- The mental disorder must prevent you from doing any work which you have done up until now.
- The mental disorder must render you unable to reasonably be trained for other work, which is available at the time of your disability.
- The mental disorder must be expected to be long term, lasting at least a year.
The criteria for disability based on mental health are the same, whether you are applying for SSDI or SSI. With these broad criteria in mind, the SSA recognizes several categories of mental illness which may be considered for Social Security Disability.
- Organic disorders. Organic mental disorders; such as delirium, dementia, and mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s, affect the nervous system.
- Psychotic disorders. Mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and paranoia, fall under this category. In some cases, these disorders may automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability once they are diagnosed and you may qualify for a Compassionate Allowance, which will enable you to start collecting Social Security Disability much sooner.
- Affective disorders. Mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar, which are not the direct result of brain abnormalities often fall under this category.
- Mental retardation. Learning disorders often qualify an individual for Social Security Disability.
- Anxiety related disorders. Both continuous and episodic anxiety related disorders may qualify you for Social Security Disability benefits, if it can be demonstrated that they make it impossible for you to work. Panic attacks and other forms of abnormal fears and phobias are all considered.
- Somatoform disorders. Mental illness which displays itself in symptoms of illness or injury for which there is no discernable cause.
- Personality disorders. Many mental illnesses fall under this category, which is defined by deviant inner experience and behavior which does not fit in with society as a whole. Common personality disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder and passive-aggressive disorder.
- Substance addiction disorders. This includes both alcoholism and drug addiction. It includes both addiction to prescribed medication and illicit drugs.
- Autistic/ Pervasive developmental disorders. Mental disabilities which affect communication, cognitive skills, behavior, and social skills.
The list of recognized mental disorders is not entirely complete. Any mental disorder which renders you unable to perform gainful work may be considered for Social Security Disability benefits.
Because diagnosing many mental disorders can be somewhat subjective, it can be difficult and time consuming to prove to the SSA that your mental disorder qualifies you as completely disabled according to the SSA definition. You will help your case immeasurably if you keep a running journal of how your mental condition affects your day to day life.
Make sure not to limit yourself to notating the ways in which your mental disability has hindered you on the job. The SSA, when determining whether you qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, will take many of your daily activities into account, including your ability to stay focused on household tasks.
Have your psychiatrist, medical doctor, and former employers write letters on your behalf detailing how your mental condition has affected your ability to work. You should also consider contracting a Social Security lawyer or advocate who has experience working with cases involving mental disorders.