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Disability for Depression?

Depression, a mood disorder characterized by feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, sadness, and gloom, is the second most common medical condition listed on Social Security disability (SSDI and SSI) claims. People suffering from depression frequently experience feelings of fatigue, decreased energy, and a loss of interest in things that they previously found rewarding or enjoyable. It is not surprising, therefore, that having depression can make working full time extremely difficult or impossible.

What is surprising is how difficult it can be to get approved for disability benefits on the basis of depression alone. Like all conditions that can qualify you for disability benefits, Social Security has a corresponding Blue Book listing.

According to the Blue Book, in order to qualify for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) due to depression, you must show that you experience severe depression by manifesting at least five of the following symptoms: 1) sleep disturbance; 2) decreased interest in almost all activities; 3) depressed mood; 4) appetite disturbance that results in weight change; 5) feelings of worthlessness or guilt; 6) slowing of physical movement and reactions or increased physical agitation; 7) difficulty thinking or concentrating; or 8) thoughts of death or suicide.

You must also meet functional criteria to prove that your depression has caused a comprehensive loss of abilities. That means you must experience an extreme limitation in at least one of the following areas or marked limitations in at least two of the following areas: 1) interacting with others; 2) adapting or managing oneself; 3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace in performing tasks; and/or 4) understanding, remembering, or applying information.

If you do not meet the above listings, you may still qualify for benefits on the basis of your depression. Social Security Administration (SSA) will look at how your symptoms of depression affect your ability to perform any kind of unskilled work. Specifically, SSA will assess your ability to make simple work-related decisions, respond appropriately to supervision and co-workers, carry out simple instructions, and handle changes in routine.

There is no real way to predict when, who, and how depression will strike. It can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors, and it is often associated with how people have learned to deal with stress in their lives. Unfortunately, there is no specific medical test to diagnose depression—your treating physician will evaluate your symptoms and their severity in their entirety.

Your chances of obtaining disability benefits improve if your claim involves a physical impairment or another mental impairment in conjunction with depression. But it is possible to be approved for benefits on depression alone. Make sure to include thorough documentation from all mental health professionals working with you and consider hiring an experienced Social Security disability attorney to assist you with the nuances of your depression claim.