What Mental Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability?

What Mental Disorders Qualify for Social Security Disability?

disability for mental health conditions

Every year, millions of people apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a program that provides monthly benefits to disabled beneficiaries and their families. If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental disorder that keeps you from working, you may be wondering if the Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider your mental disorder a disability or not. While not everyone who applies will qualify for SSDI benefits, many people diagnosed with mental health disorders may be eligible. 

If you’re thinking of applying for disability benefits, the SSA blue book is a good place to start. In it, you’ll find listings of impairments which may meet the requirements for SSDI. It’s important to note, however, that whether or not you’ll be approved also hinges on other factors, including your work history, the severity of your condition(s), your age, education, and work skills. That being said, receiving disability for mental disorders isn’t uncommon—according to the SSA Annual Statistical Report, about 18.3% of all approved cases in 2019 were for mental disorders.

Qualifying Mental Disorders for Disability

In the blue book, mental disorders as defined by the SSA are broken up into 11 general categories, many of which contain subcategories of multiple known conditions and diagnoses.

Neurocognitive Disorders

Neurocognitive disorders are defined as a disability that results due to a clinically significant decline in cognitive functioning. Common neurocognitive disorders include Alzheimer’s dementia, vascular dementia, disease-related dementia, HIV-associated cognitive disorder, progressive brain tumors, and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease. Traumatic brain injuries and substance-induced cognitive disorders may also sometimes be evaluated as a neurocognitive disorder (other times they may be considered a neurological disorder).

Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

Those diagnosed on the schizophrenia spectrum or with other psychotic disorders may be considered disabled by the SSA if associated symptoms cause a clinically significant decline in cognitive or overall functioning. Common diagnoses and conditions include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, or psychotic disorders caused by another condition.

Depressive, Bipolar, and Related Disorders

disability for mental disorders

Mental disorders which cause significantly debilitating irritability, depression, sleep disturbances, suicidal ideation, trouble concentrating, grandiosity, or psychomotor abnormalities may be evaluated as a disabling condition by the SSA. Commonly included disorders include bipolar I or II, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia), cyclothymic disorder, or depressive disorders caused by another condition.

Intellectual Disorders

Intellectual disorders are defined as those which result in intellectual levels significantly below average, along with low adaptive functioning that manifests before the age of 22. No specific disorders are listed in the blue book, and qualifying conditions are listed only as “intellectual disabilities or intellectual developmental disorders”.

Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

The SSA classes these disorders as those which result in excessive worrying and avoidance of things, places, or people who trigger their anxiety. Relevant disorders include agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder

Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders

Somatic symptom disorder and other related disorders refer to sometimes non-specific mental disorders attributed to physical symptoms which are not fully explainable by any other mental health condition, physical condition, substance use, or culturally-sanctioned behavior. This does not include any illnesses which are feigned or intentionally produced (i.e., a factitious disorder). Sufferers may have been diagnosed with somatic symptom disorder, illness anxiety disorder, or conversion disorder.

Personality and Impulse-Control Disorders

Personality disorders are generally defined by maladaptive behavior patterns that often emerge in young adulthood and persist indefinitely. Those who have been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, or schizotypal personality disorder may qualify under this listing. Obsessive-compulsive disorder may also be evaluated as an impulse-control disorder.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder here refers to both those diagnosed with autism with or without intellectual or language impairment. Qualitative deficits can be observed in social development, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, symbolic activity, and/or restricted and repetitive behavior patterns or interests. Behavioral difficulties, stagnation of development, and skill loss early in life may also be observed.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

disability for mental disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders are classed as those that occur during the developmental years in childhood or adolescence. Some of these types of disorders may not be diagnosed until adulthood. Differences in cognitive processing, issues with impulse control, motor skills, and low organization skills may be present. Applicable disorders include specific learning disorders, borderline intellectual functioning, and tic disorders (i.e., Tourette’s syndrome). 

Eating Disorders

Disability for mental disorders may also include those with eating disorders characterized by significant disturbances in eating behaviors along with excessive worry or preoccupation with body weight, shape, or size. Qualifying disorders may include anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and avoidant/restrictive food disorder.

Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders

Trauma and stressor-related disorders often stems from having experienced or witnessed a traumatic or extremely stressful event. The symptoms of such disorders must significantly impair functioning. This category includes post-traumatic stress disorder, other specific stressor-related disorders, and some persistent adjustment disorders.

How To Get Disability For Mental Disorders

Before beginning the disability application process, it’s important that you understand how long it will take, the extent of medical documentation you’ll need, and how the Social Security Administration will evaluate your disability claim. Remember, simply having the symptoms or having been diagnosed with a mental health condition is not enough on its own to qualify you for benefits. 

The truth is, applying for disability for a mental health disorder can be a long and at times frustrating process. Most first-time applicants are denied, and appeals can take months. However, this doesn’t mean you should give up hope. With the help of an experienced Social Security disability lawyer, you can increase your odds of being approved the first time and strengthen your claim should you need to go through the appeals process.

To find out the difference having dedicated representation on your side can make, contact us at Social Security Disability Advocates USA today. We’ll arrange a free, no obligation consultation with our legal team to review your disability claim and help you make the right decision for you and your family. Get in touch 24/7 by calling 602-952-3200, connecting with one of our LiveChat agents, or by filling out this form to request your complimentary case review.

This is attorney advertising. SSDA, LLC is a group of attorneys that pursues claims for Social Security Disability benefits on behalf of its clients against the Social Security Administration. SSDA, LLC is in no way a part of the Social Security Administration. Further, the information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a representative-client relationship.
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