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Does Your Mental Condition Qualify You for Social Security Benefits?

Does Your Mental Condition Qualify You for Social Security Benefits?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability benefits to qualified individuals who suffer debilitating mental conditions. Disability benefits may be available through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These monthly payments can help offset the financial burden associated with being unable to work.

The SSA will evaluate how your mental condition impacts your ability to perform substantial gainful activity – in other words, your ability to work and earn income. It is not enough to prove you suffer a mental illness or other condition. You also must prove the mental condition has made it impossible for you to maintain steady employment.

The SSA’s Listing of Impairments – Qualifying Mental Conditions

The SSA uses a Listing of Impairments as a standard by which to evaluate applicants. Below are some of the mental and emotional impairments included in the Listing that may qualify for Social Security disability benefits:

  • organic mental disorders (characterized by behavioral or psychological abnormalities);
  • schizophrenic disorders;
  • paranoid disorders;
  • certain psychotic disorders;
  • affective disorders (also known as mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder);
  • intellectual disability;
  • anxiety-related disorders;
  • somatoform disorders;
  • personality disorders;
  • substance addiction disorders;
  • autistic disorder; and
  • certain pervasive developmental disorders.


The Listing of Impairments provides guidelines for how each category of mental impairment is evaluated. For instance, an applicant who suffers schizophrenia may have to prove he or she has suffered delusions or hallucinations or has experienced emotional withdrawal and isolation. The applicant then would have to prove how these symptoms impact his or her ability to work.

How the SSA Evaluates Your Disability Benefits Application

The SSA uses numerous resources when evaluating an application for disability benefits. It will examine the applicant’s medical records, diagnostic results and doctor testimony. It also will consider information about the applicant’s daily life, such as engagement in household activities, socialization and employment. Depending on the type of benefits involved, the SSA also will consider the applicant’s work history and/or available financial resources.

The SSA will evaluate an applicant’s medical evidence and other details and measure it against the Listing of Impairments to determine the applicant’s functional ability. If the applicant meets the listed criteria, he or she will be considered unable to engage reasonably in gainful activity (employment). An applicant who does not meet the criteria will be considered to have the ability to engage in some level of gainful activity.

Filing a Successful Application for Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits are reserved for those whose mental conditions – or physical impairments – make it impossible to work. As such, the SSA employs a rigorous set of standards when evaluating each application. It is not enough simply to say you suffer from a debilitating condition – you must prove it by presenting a substantial body of evidence.

It is not unusual for a first-time application to be denied. Disabled applicants have the right to appeal a denial of benefits. Was your application rejected? Do you need help filing an initial claim? Call today to schedule a consultation with an attorney – 866-LAW-SSDI (866-529-7734).

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