The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines a disabling mental condition as one that keeps you from being able to work and which has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months.
SSA statistics show that nearly a fifth of all disability benefits claims awarded each year are to people suffering from this type of condition.
The following are examples found in the SSA’s “Blue Book.” This book lists impairments that are considered severe enough that an individual suffering from one is “disabled” as a matter of law, and it describes the medical evidence need to establish that you suffer from this impairment.
Organic Mental Disorders
These are disorders that are caused by a physical illness or disease rather than a psychiatric illness. An example is Alzheimer’s Disease or symptoms brought on by traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as difficulty with concentrating, thinking clearly or remembering new information.
Schizophrenic, Paranoid and Other Psychotic Disorders
Schizophrenia is a rare but serious mental disorder. It generally is marked by a person losing touch with reality. Symptoms generally appear between the ages of 16 and 30. The signs may appear later in men than women. They include:
- Hallucinations (seeing objects that aren’t there or hearing voices)
- Delusions (including paranoid beliefs that others are trying to harm them)
- Dysfunctional thinking (inability to think clearly)
- Unusual body movements (repeated motions)
- Catatonia (not moving at all or responding to one’s environment.
These are also called “mood disorders.” Examples include depression, loss of interest in activities, loss of appetite (with weight fluctuations), suicidal thoughts or hyperactivity.
The SSA generally requires a showing that the individual falls within one of four categories:
- Dependence on others for personal needs (eating, dressing, hygiene)
- Full scale IQ of 59 or less
- Full scale IQ of 60 through 70 and a physical or other mental impairment
- Full scale IQ of 60 through 70 that results in at least two of the following:
- Restriction of activities of daily living
- Difficulties in maintaining social functioning
- Difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace
- Repeated, extended episodes of mental health deterioration.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could fall within this category. This is often caused by experiencing a traumatic event or witnessing one. Other examples of anxiety-related disorders are persistent, irrational fear or recurring panic attacks.
The SSA defines these as “physical symptoms for which there are no demonstrable organic findings or known physiological mechanisms.” For instance, a person may inexplicably lose their sense of vision, speech or hearing or the use of a limb.
The SSA states that an “unrealistic interpretation of physical signs or sensations” or a “preoccupation or a belief that one has a serious disease or injury” also are signs.
These disorders generally include the inability to function in social settings such as being withdrawn, pathologically suspicious or hostile, overly aggressive or impulsive and damaging behavior.
Substance Addiction Disorders
Alcoholism or drug addiction may be considered a disability. To be a qualifying disability, one’s addiction must lead to behavioral or physical changes, including depression, anxiety, liver damage, gastritis, pancreatitis or seizures.
Autism is a mental disorder that is marked by difficulties a person has with communicating and interacting socially. It may also be marked by making repeated body movements or repeating the same words over and over again. Asperger’s Syndrome is a mild form of autism.