Can I receive disability benefits if I suffer from severe depression?
Depression is a feeling of sadness, helplessness or worthlessness that continues over an extended period of time. Depression can take many forms and cause a wide variety of symptoms. It is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States affecting approximately 7 percent of adults in the country.
According to the DSM-V a person is clinically depressed when they experience five or more of the following symptoms at the same time:
- Sadness throughout the day
- Fatigue or feelings of low energy
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Insomnia or excess sleepiness
- Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities, e.g. sex
- Weight loss or gain
- Suicidal thoughts
While many people believe depression is within a person’s control, this is not the case. Depression can cause a person to have difficulty functioning normally and can impair a person’s ability to work. Luckily, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) are available to individuals suffering from depression.
There are two ways a person can qualify for SSDI or SSI -- proving that he or she meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) requirements listed in the impairment manual or by being granted a medical vocational allowance.
The Social Security Administration maintains a manual of disorders that lists criteria for each of the recognized ailments. In order to be considered depressed, you must be found to have at least four of the symptoms listed in the manual. These include lack of enjoyment, appetite disturbance resulting in loss or gain of weight, insomnia or excess sleep, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating or thinking, suicidal thoughts and hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. To qualify an individual for benefits, these symptoms must interfere with daily functioning.
If a person does not meet the criteria outlined in the impairment manual, he or she may still qualify for disability under a medical-vocational allowance. In order to qualify in this way, the SSA must make a determination as to how the person’s depression affects his or her ability to work.
As with any impairment, your chances of getting disability benefits depend on the thoroughness of your application. It is in your best interest to retain a qualified disability attorney before filing an application for SSDI or SSI benefits.