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Schizophrenia and Social Security Disability

Schizophrenia is a psychotic mental disorder that alters your perception of reality, makes normal social interaction difficult, and causes challenges when thinking logically and controlling behavior. Schizophrenia is considered a spectrum disorder, which means it affects each individual who suffers from it differently, and, as a result, the symptoms vary greatly from person to person. While it is possible for some people suffering from schizophrenia to work, not everyone responds to treatment well, and even highly-functioning schizophrenics may find it difficult to hold down a job.

Common symptoms of schizophrenia include social isolation, disrupted thinking, flat or inappropriate affect in speech, odd mannerisms or beliefs, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and difficulty paying attention. The causes of schizophrenia are not well-understood. It usually begins to manifest itself in young adulthood, but it can also occur in childhood or later in life.

There are four kinds of schizophrenia: paranoid schizophrenia; disorganized schizophrenia; undifferentiated schizophrenia; and catatonic schizophrenia. Residual schizophrenia is not a recognized schizophrenic type, but it refers to schizophrenics who have most of their symptoms under control but still display some of them to a smaller extent. Symptoms are often mild at the onset of the disorder and frequently go unnoticed (i.e., insomnia, tension, trouble concentrating), but they eventually turn into the psychotic symptoms listed above.

For purposes of qualifying for disability benefits through Social Security Administration (SSA), it is not enough to simply be diagnosed with schizophrenia. You must prove to SSA that your diagnosed schizophrenia makes it impossible for you to work, even with treatment. At present, schizophrenia can only be diagnosed by a mental status examination.

To improve your chances of getting awarded either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, ensure that your medical records include opinions about your ability to work from your doctor, psychiatrist, and/or psychologist, records from hospital visits, notes from clinic visits, and psychological testing.

There is no cure for schizophrenia, so the disorder typically requires lifelong treatment. You will want to document all the treatments you have tried and whether they helped you control your symptoms. Make a list of all your medications, when they were prescribed, and how often you take them.