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Having a severe mental disorder can be a debilitating condition that can make it impossible to work or hold down a steady form of employment. With no work and no steady source of income thousands of people turn to the Social Security Administration to apply for benefits. The term ‘mental disorders’ is a broad classification and there are over 100 physical and mental impairments in the Social Security ‘Blue Book’ that qualify for Disability as long as certain listed criteria according to the SSA are met.

Whether you apply for SSDI or SSI the criteria for disability based on your mental disorder is the same. Social Security evaluators use this criteria listed in the Blue book to determine their decision whether a claimant qualifies for social security benefits along with objective medical evidence, family and personal statements, your personal interview and examination and other factors.

Disability Evaluation Under Social Security

The following is a list of mental disorders and mental health conditions that may qualify for social security disability benefits:

  • Neurocognitive disorders i.e. dementia, Alzheimer’s, the inability to focus or concentrate, remember, adapt or understand
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders i.e. experience hallucinations, catatonia
  • Depressive, bipolar and related disorders i.e. diminished interest in life, appetite disturbance, change in weight, sleep disturbance, decreased energy, feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Intellectual disorders i.e. mental retardation, subaverage general intellectual functioning, inability to care for personal needs.
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders i.e. panic attacks, paranoia, agoraphobia, repetitive thoughts or behaviors directed at reducing anxiety.
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders i.e. Preoccupation with having a serious illness that is not explained by a medical disorder.
  • Personality and impulse control disorders i.e. detached personality, borderline personality, autism, instability of interpersonal relationships.
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders i.e. frequent distractibility, hyperactivity, impulsivity.
  • Eating disorders i.e. anorexia, bulimia disorder that impairs physical or psychological health.
  • Trauma and stressor related disorders i.e. PTSD, experience or exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or violence.

Social Security also requires that the above mental disorders must prevent you from doing any work which you have done until now. The mental disorder must render you unable to be trained for any other work which is available at the time of your disability. And the mental disorder must be expected to last at least one year.

Diagnosing these mental health disorders is often a time consuming and painstaking task because unlike a physical illness mental disorders are ‘unseen’ to the eye. One cannot determine extreme depression, anxiety or debilitating compulsion or paranoia through a lab test. Your mental illness may be difficult to prove and therefore its very important to keep accurate health records of the providers you’ve visited and journal of ways that your condition has affected your daily life and hindered your work performance.

Have your doctor, counselor and close family and friends write letters for you to record how your mental condition has affected you, your social life, your family and your ability to work. It’s also a very good idea to contact an advocate or a representative. Someone who has experience working with helping social security claimants in case you get turned down and need to file an appeal can save you a lot of frustration and help you to win your case.