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What Mental Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI or SSD) provides financial support to working people who paid FICA taxes into the Social Security System and have become disabled by either a physical or mental impairment. Eligible SSD applicants find their impairment prevents them from earning what the Social Security Administration (SSA) sets as the income threshold for SSD benefits, called the SGA (substantial gainful activity).

The SSA recognizes many mental impairments as disabling and accepts those who suffer from mental disabilities as fully eligible to receive SSD benefits, just as they would a physical disability. The list of mental disabilities that qualify a worker for SSD benefits is long and includes a wide array of illnesses and neurological conditions.

This blog post will review the major “listed” mental disorders, but you should contact us at Attorney Scott’s London’s Disability Law Advocates (London Eligibility) for a full examination of your case and to get answers to all your questions. Our attorneys and professional SSD advocates can guide you through the SSD application process from beginning to end, reduce your stress, and maximize the amount of your benefit award.

If You Have More Than One Impairment

It is important to know that many people suffer from more than one impairment. For some, no single impairment by itself is severe enough to qualify them for SSD benefits. But when multiple impairments are taken together, as a complex of impairments, many applicants learn that they do qualify for SSD benefits because their overall challenges are greater than any single disorder they live with. These combinations of impairments could include both physical and mental impairments.

The Listed Mental Disorders That Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

Criteria Assessing the Degree of Disability Caused by Mental Disorders: Assessing an SSD applicant’s mental disorder requires the Social Security Administration to determine the illness’s impact on the person’s daily life and ability to work. Merely suffering from a mental illness does not necessarily qualify a person to receive SSD benefits.

The SSA uses these criteria to assess the severity of a mental disorder’s impact on someone’s life by determining if there is an extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information.
  • Interacting with others.
  • Concentrating, persisting or maintaining pace.
  • Adapting or managing oneself.

Neurocognitive Disorders — This group of illnesses includes impairments that interfere with normal cognitive functions. Examples of some symptoms are disturbances in attention, planning ability, inhibition regulation, understanding or organizing speech, or memory. A few familiar major illnesses are Alzheimer’s-like dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), traumatic brain injury, etc.

Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders — Marked by symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and speech, or disorganized behavior, this category of mental illness disrupts the sufferer’s life and work.

Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders — Depression, bipolar disorder (formerly manic-depression), and similar illnesses can be typified by a serious and persistent experience of depressed mood, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thinking. Bipolar disorder can also involve pressured speech, elevated self-esteem, grandiosity, and impulsive flights of ideas.

Intellectual disorder — Intellectual disorders are distinct in that they are often developmental, first appearing in childhood or adolescence, but sometimes not being diagnosed until adulthood. Learning disabilities, IQ scores near or below 70, dependence on others for personal care, concentration problems, and other issues.

Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders — When anxiety is experienced as panic attacks followed by an intense fear of more panic attacks, or agoraphobia causes fear of going outside or into open spaces affects someone’s daily life, the illness can make working regularly or for sustained periods impossible. Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves repetitive behavior engaged in to reduce anxiety, sometimes including time-consuming, preoccupations with ritualistic activity.

Somatic symptom and related disorders — These disorders are among the most difficult to diagnose because they involve genuine, persistent symptoms like pain, weakness, fatigue, or a deep fear of being seriously ill, but no medical diagnosis can explain or account for the sensations.

Personality and impulse-control disorders — Some of the features of personality disorders are social detachment, distrust of others, disinterest or disrespect for the rights of others, and sometimes outbursts of aggressive behavior.

Other Important SSD Qualifying Mental Disorders ¬— As noted at the beginning of this blog post, the number and complexity of mental disorders that qualify for SSD benefits can’t be covered here. But take note that these mental disorders are also fully recognized as qualifying for SSD benefits when judged severe enough to meet the SSA’s criteria.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence of qualitative deficits in verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and demonstrated limitations in areas shown above as assessing criteria.
  • Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders: Such as PTSD following exposure to a threat of death or serious bodily injury and involuntary remembering and re-experiencing the fear, along with demonstrated limitation in those areas listed as assessing criteria earlier on this page.
  • Eating Disorders: Documented changes in eating or nutrition absorption patterns that have a significant impact on the physical or mental health of the SSD applicant. (And see criteria above.)
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders: These disorders include those involving frequent distractibility, difficulty sustaining attention, and difficulty organizing tasks; or hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Again, this is also assessed considering the criteria highlighted above.

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