Is Depression a Disability? Does Depression Qualify For Disability Benefits?

Everyone has, at one time or another, experienced momentary periods of sadness or feeling out of sorts over the end of a relationship, being fired from a job, and everyday life events. If you experience those feelings for weeks rather than days, you should discuss them with your doctor, who can determine if you have depression.

Depression is a serious mental health disorder affecting how a person thinks, acts, and feels. It also negatively affects their perception of the world around them. It is estimated that 29% of the adult population of the United States has, at some stage of their lives, been diagnosed with the disorder.

The symptoms of depression affect each person differently and range from mild to severe. Left untreated, depression can affect your ability to function and perform day-to-day activities, including negatively affecting your ability to work and earn a living.

The disability lawyers at the Clauson Law Firm want people to know that depression may qualify for disability benefits through programs managed by the Social Security Administration. This article explains depression, including recognizing its symptoms and the available treatment options. It also takes an in-depth look at the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs, including how can someone diagnosed with depression qualify for disability.

What Is Depression?

Someone experiencing persistent feelings of sadness with a loss of interest may have a mood disorder commonly referred to as depression. Doctors call it clinical depression or major depressive disorder.

Depression is not something that a person simply decides to stop doing. It can be a severe mental disorder requiring a long-term course of treatment with psychotherapy, prescription medication, or both.

Symptoms Associated With Depression

Symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. Some of the common symptoms include the following:

  • Sadness, irritability, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or lack of pleasure in activities a person previously enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite or weight not related to dieting
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired and fatigued
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feeling excessively guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
  • Excessive forgetfulness
  • Thoughts of suicide, death, or harming yourself

Doctors typically look for symptoms occurring on a daily or almost daily basis for two weeks or longer to arrive at a depression diagnosis. They also look for changes marked in how a person functions on a day-to-day basis at work and home.

Research has identified certain factors that may cause a person to develop depression, including the following:

  • Biochemical: Serotonin, dopamine, and other chemicals within the brain have been identified as a possible cause of depression.
  • Genetics: There may be a familial disposition toward the development of depression. Someone whose biological sibling or parent has been diagnosed with depression maybe 70% more likely to develop the disorder than someone who does not.
  • Life events: People who have been abused, neglected, exposed to violence, or subjected to other traumatic life experiences have an increased likelihood of developing depression.

A person who is generally optimistic and has a good self-image may be less inclined to experience symptoms associated with depression.

Treatment Options Available For Someone With Depression

If you believe you exhibit any of the symptoms associated with depression, do not ignore them or think they’ll go away on their own. Instead, discuss how you feel with a doctor who will discuss your symptoms and family history and conduct a physical examination and diagnostic testing to rule out causes of the symptoms you’re experiencing, including the following:

  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Neurological disorders

If depression is diagnosed as the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will discuss a treatment plan with you. Treatments may include prescribed medications, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers, and different forms of psychotherapy. Patients with severe depression that does not respond to other forms of treatment may undergo electroconvulsive therapy.

Electroconvulsive therapy is performed under sedation. The brain is electrically stimulated to cause a patient to have a seizure. The process usually requires multiple weekly sessions to improve a patient’s condition.

It’s essential to follow the treatment plan your healthcare providers create to reduce the severity of the symptoms. Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, getting enough sleep, avoiding beverages containing alcohol, and sticking to a healthy diet, have been shown to work well in conjunction with the treatment prescribed by your doctor.

Can You Qualify For Disability Benefits With Depression?

If you have depression symptoms that prevent you from working, you may be wondering: Is depression a disability? Depending on its severity and other factors, depression can qualify for disability benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. These are two programs through the Social Security Administration paying disability benefits to people who meet their eligibility guidelines.

People typically associate Social Security with retirement benefits, but it also includes the SSDI program to assist workers who become disabled before reaching retirement age. You are “insured” and eligible for the SSDI program if you worked long enough and recently enough at jobs or through self-employment and paid Social Security taxes on the money you earned. You also must have a medical condition expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death that prevents you from working.

The SSI program also pays monthly benefits if you are blind or disabled, but the program’s benefits are not limited to people who worked and paid Social Security taxes. SSI pays benefits to adults and children with little or no income who own assets or resources valued at $2,000 or less. The resource limits increase to $3,000 for couples.

Adults applying for disability benefits through SSI must be unable to work because they are blind or have a disability caused by a medical condition expected to last for at least one year or expected to result in their death.

Applications submitted for SSI on behalf of a child must demonstrate the presence of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment expected to last for at least 12 months or cause their death. The impairment must cause marked and severe functional limitations.

A person qualifying for SSDI is eligible for medical insurance coverage through Medicare after a 24-month waiting period. SSI recipients may be eligible to have their medical expenses paid through Medicaid. Medicaid benefits depend on your ability to meet your state’s eligibility guidelines.

Does Depression Qualify For Disability Benefits?

Qualifying for SSDI and SSI benefits is not easy. According to the Social Security Administration, fewer than one-third of applications for disability benefits are approved each year. The SSA has strict guidelines you must meet, or your application will be denied.

Assuming that you meet the non-medical eligibility guidelines for SSDI or SSI, you need to prove that you are disabled because of depression. You need a diagnosis from a qualified medical professional and medical records proving that your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working.

A way to do this is the listing of impairments, also called the “Blue Book,” the SSA compiled for its disability examiners to use when reviewing applications. Examiners may consider a condition that matches or is functionally equivalent to a Blue Book listing as being severe enough to meet the disability definition for SSI and SSDI.

The SSA listings include depressive disorders in listing 12.04, which contains criteria an applicant for benefits must satisfy to meet the listed impairment. The depressive disorders listing contains three parts, “A,” “B,” and “C.” To match the listing, your medical records must document that you meet the criteria in parts A and B or A and C.

For example, paragraph 1 of part A requires that your medical records document that you have a depressive disorder with displaying at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood.
  • Diminished interest in almost all activities.
  • Appetite disturbance with a weight change.
  • Sleep disturbance.
  • Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation.
  • Decreased energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

If you cannot satisfy the requirements of paragraph 1 of part A, there is a paragraph 2 for bipolar disorder. You need to document the presence of at least three of the following:

  • Flight of ideas.
  • Pressured speech.
  • Need for less sleep than usual.
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Easily distracted.
  • Involved in activities with a high probability of painful consequences and not being aware of those consequences.
  • Increased psychomotor agitation or goal-directed activities.

If you cannot meet the extensive criteria in listing 12.04 to qualify for disability benefits, do not give up. If you cannot work and have medical records documenting your condition, there are other ways to qualify for SSI and SSDI with depression.

The SSA looks at your age, education, skills, work history, and medical condition to determine if you qualify using a medical-vocational allowance. A claims examiner relies on a residual functional capacity form completed by your physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist to determine if your physical and mental limitations, your education, and other factors decide if you are disabled.

Learn More During A Free Consultation With A Disability Lawyer

Whether you have questions about how to apply for Social Security disability benefits with depression or have been denied benefits and want to know about your right to challenge it through the appeal process, turn to a Clauson Law Firm disability lawyer. Contact Clauson Law today for a free consultation.

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Clauson Law has focused on representing the injured and disabled for over 10 years. We have handled thousands of cases. Each client is important to us and has a unique situation.

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