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.
Common Mental Health Disorders
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes several common mental health problems:
- Anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – This is marked by extreme worry about things for which there is little or no reason to worry. GAD sufferers can be anxious about just getting through the day or suffer overwhelming anxiety that keeps them from doing everyday tasks.
- Bipolar disorder – This is also known as manic-depressive illness. Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder. It causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
- Depression – This is a common but serious illness. It is marked by symptoms such as persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings and can include thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. Many who suffer from depression have difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions. Some cannot get out of bed or leave home.
- Panic disorder –This condition is marked by sudden and repeated attacks of fear that last for several minutes or longer. Panic disorder can lead to an intense worry about when the next attack will happen. It can interfere with daily routines such as school or work.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – This is an anxiety disorder that some people suffer after seeing or living through a dangerous event. PTSD has many symptoms. They include re-experiencing the event, avoidance symptoms and being easily startled or constantly feeling tense or “on-edge.”
- Schizophrenia – This is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder. It may cause sufferers to be delusional. In some cases, they can become withdrawn or extremely agitated.
- Sleep disorders – These conditions include insomnia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), difficulty breathing, fatigue and excessive sleeping, narcolepsy, nightmares and REM behavior disorder (RBD) in which people act out their dreams.
- Stress – This condition can be overwhelming or chronic. It can damage the digestive, excretory and reproductive systems.
The Challenges of a North Carolina Mental Illness Social Security Disability Claim
Demonstrating a person’s mental illness can be a tough and complex undertaking. Such a claim might rely on showing that a physical injury led to the person’s psychological impairment. It may also rely on proving that an emotional stimulus caused a psychological reaction and disability. A violent act such as an explosion or the collapse of scaffolding that led to workers’ deaths, for example, could cause post-traumatic stress disorder in one who witnessed the event.
An experienced North Carolina Social Security Disability lawyer who understands the SSD benefits claims system will know how to document and demonstrate one’s mental health and present it to an administrative law judge so that you get the benefits you need to survive.
Our Raleigh Mental Illness Lawyers Are Ready To Help
Hardison & Cochran handles many injury and Social Security Disability cases in North Carolina in which a person suffers from mental illness or other serious mental health issues. If you or a loved one needs a lawyer to handle your SSD benefits claim, make sure your attorney has experience representing clients who suffer from mental illness. Contact Hardison & Cochran today online or by calling (800) 434-8399 to schedule a free consultation. We’ll respond within 24 hours.
We can help to collect the evidence you need to prove your case.
The Social Security Disability lawyers at Hardison & Cochran understand that you’re relying on Social Security Disability benefits to pay for living expenses and other costs during this stressful time in your life. We’re committed to fighting for you so that you can get the SSD benefits you are entitled to receive.