SSDI and Psychological Impairments

Mental illness can be disabling and may make it impossible to work. Certain severe mental impairments may qualify you to receive social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Some of the broad categories of mental impairments that may qualify for SSDI benefits are:

Schizophrenia — This disorder is often characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized behavior, incoherence, emotional withdrawal or isolation. The age of onset is particularly important and is generally between 17-30 for men and 20-40 for women.

Affective Disorder (Bipolar) — Generally, an individual with this bipolar disorder displays a history of episodic periods of manic and depressive syndromes. Some symptoms of the depressive period are: loss of interest, appetite and sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of suicide. On the other extreme, manic symptoms are: hyperactivity, flight of ideas, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking. Many people with bipolar disorder often suffer from panic attacks and agoraphobia, which may be more severe than the bipolar disorder.

Depression — A severely depressed person will find it difficult to leave the home, be with other people, deal with ordinary stress, carry on business relationships and concentrate. It is not rare for severe depression to be a fatal disease, as some people suffering from depression commit suicide.

Mental Retardation — An individual with below average intellectual functions may be dependent on others for general care. The age of onset is important. Depending on an individual's IQ, a showing that physical or mental impairments impose a significant work-related limitation may be required.

Anxiety Disorder — Individuals may have difficulty confronting a dreaded object, resisting obsessions or controlling responses to seemingly normal occurrences. Individuals who suffer from phobic disorders, panic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and PTSD may not be able to work because they are at the mercy of forces in their minds that they know to be irrational.

Personality Disorders — Personality disorders are long-term illnesses where individuals cannot maintain long, healthy relationships. The medical history might be fragmented, because the individual cannot maintain a relationship with one physician.

The Social Security Administration evaluates applications for Social Security disability benefits based on mental impairments by looking at the following factors:

  • Does your condition restrict your daily living activities?
  • Is there a marked restriction on maintaining social functioning?
  • Does the condition keep you from maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace?
  • Have you suffered repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration?

Some of these disorders may be well-controlled with medication and allow the sufferer to work. Other cases are very severe and cannot be brought under control. Medical records will be required for all the years that you have been ill. You must have a medically-documented illness that has lasted at least two years.

Contact an experienced social security disability lawyer to discuss your illness and whether you might qualify for SSDI. An SSD lawyer can help you navigate the application process.