Disability and Depression: What You Need to Know

Depression can be a crippling condition. It is characterized by an unrelenting sadness that affects concentration, memory, and the ability to make critical decisions. Depression can cause a sufferer to stay in bed or refuse to leave home, and severe cases can be associated with suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

On top of these daily struggles, many sufferers have great difficulty working and holding a job. If your depression is preventing you from making a living, are you entitled to Disability benefits?

Qualifying for Disability With Depression

Just like a physical impairment, a mental health impairment such as depression can qualify you for Disability benefits. But as simple as the concept is, applying for benefits for your depression is a long and difficult process. It is generally harder to make a case for benefits based on a mental impairment than a physical impairment, simply because a mental impairment is invisible.

To qualify for benefits due to depression, your condition must be so disabling that it has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year.

In addition, whether you have major or persistent depressive disorder, you must demonstrate that you are experiencing at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressive mood
  • Reduced interest in almost all activities
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Abnormal body movements that others can see
  • Decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Suicidal thoughts

In addition to establishing that you are suffering from at least five of the symptoms above, you must prove that your mental functioning is impaired in at least two of the following ways:

  • Limited ability to understand, remember, or apply information
  • Limited ability to interact with others
  • Limited ability to keep focus or concentration
  • Limited ability to control yourself

Alternatively, if you cannot establish two of the limitations in the above list, you can also show that you have a documented medical history of at least two years for your depression, including:

  • Ongoing support and treatment that reduces the symptoms of your depression
  • Evidence that you can make at least small adjustments to respond to changes in your environment

Bottom Line: You need five from the first list + two from the second list or the two items on the third list to qualify for benefits.

Proving Your Claim

Overall, you must be able to demonstrate that even simple jobs are impossible for you because of your depression, despite your ongoing attempts at treatment. The key to proving the severity of your condition is medical records and expert testimony that supports the records.

Your psychiatrist’s conclusions and observations will be crucial. In addition to your psychiatrist, other witnesses, such as caretakers or coworkers, may be able to provide support to your claim that consistent work is an impossibility for you.

Learn more about how much you’ll receive in monthly Disability benefits if your claim for depression is approved.

How Long Do Benefits Last?

The length of benefits is based on the duration of the impairment, not the passage of time. Said another way, so long as your depression is preventing you from working and meets the requirements above, you can continue to remain eligible for benefits. If you are approved for benefits, the Social Security Administration will review your case periodically to ensure you’re still eligible.

Are You Entitled to Benefits? An Attorney Can Evaluate Your Case for Free

There are many good reasons to hire a Disability lawyer to help you in your fight. This is even truer when it comes to the difficult battle for benefits based on your depression.

You’re not alone in this. Even if you’ve been denied, an attorney may be able to help you win your appeal. Many Disability applicants who are initially denied are successful on appeal.

Every case is unique and the tiniest fact can make all the difference. There’s no need to guess if you have a case that we can help you with. Just call 1-866-900-7078 right now to request that your case details be reviewed by one of our attorneys — absolutely free. You can also submit our online form to have a team member get back to you promptly. We are here to help.

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Rick Fleming

About the Author

Rick Fleming practices Social Security Disability law at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. In addition to heading up the firm’s Social Security Disability Department, he is a North Carolina State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law and fluent in English and Spanish. Rick has received multiple Order of Service awards from the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and he is an active board member of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR). He currently holds the board-elected position of NOSSCR Treasurer, after completing a year serving as the organization’s Secretary.