Can I Get Disability for Depression?


Generally, a person may qualify for disability assistance for depression as a medical condition. The Social Security Act defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity, such as work, by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. Depression is a covered disability under the category of an organic mental disorder. An organic mental disorder occurs where there are psychological or behavioral abnormalities associated with a dysfunction of the brain.

What do I have to prove to show my depression?

As a mental impairment, depression must be established by medical evidence consisting of signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by relying on the claimant’s reported symptoms. Additionally, the depression has to reach a level of severity as determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) using certain criteria. To make this determination, the SSA will look for the satisfaction of a combination of one or more of the factors in A and B below, or for the satisfaction of one or more of the factors in C below:

Under Section A:

Demonstration of a loss of specific mental abilities or emotional changes and the medically documented persistence of at least one of the following:
1. Disorientation to time and place;
2. Memory impairment (short-term, intermediate, or long-term);
3. Perceptual or thinking disturbances (e.g., hallucinations, delusions);
4. Change in personality;
5. Disturbance in mood;
6. Emotional liability (e.g., explosive temper outbursts, sudden crying, etc.) and impairment in impulse control;
7. Loss of measured intellectual ability of at least 15 I.Q. points.


Under Section B:

Resulting in at least two of the following:
1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living;
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning;
3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace;
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.


Under Section C:

Medically documented history of a chronic organic mental disorder of at least 2 years duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently decreased by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:
1. Repeated episodes of mental deterioration, each of extended duration;
2. A residual disease that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would cause the individual to deteriorate;
3. Current history of one or more years’ inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.

What evidence does the SSA rely on?

In order to assess the severity of the disability following the criteria listed above, the Social Security Administration relies on medical evidence from medical sources (such as licensed physicians and psychologists), treating sources, health facilities, as well as other evidence that may also help show the extent to which a person’s condition affects his or her ability to function in a work setting.

Applying for assistance

The application for disability for a mental condition such as depression can be a long and complicated process. First time applicants may be unsuccessful, in which case they may appeal the decision. If you have a condition that may qualify you for disability assistance, consult an experienced social security disability attorney for assistance with the application and appeals process.

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