Eating Disorders and Disability Benefits

An eating disorder typically causes emotional, mental, and physical symptoms, any of which can prevent you from earning a gainful living. Anxiety, depression, mood swings, difficulty sleeping and concentrating as well as extreme weight loss, muscle pain, severe heart complications, anemia, seizures, and other serious and potentially life-threatening complications can accompany an eating disorder.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers eating disorders potentially disabling. They will review your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits whether it is the psychological, mental, or physical symptoms that disable you.

Medically Qualifying with an Eating Disorder

The SSA uses a manual of disabling conditions to review applications. This manual the Blue Book and while there is no specific listing for eating disorders, there is a standard process for reviewing applications filed for eating disorder-related disabilities.

To qualify, you must:

  • meet a disability listing,
  • have a condition that is the medical equivalent to a listed disability,
  • prove your impairments are so severe that they prevent you from working.

If any single symptom or complication meets or closely matches a listing, then you can be approved for benefits based on that listing alone. The most common listings under which an eating disorder may be approved include:

Each of these listings has specific medical criteria that must be well documented in your medical records.

The types of medical records the SSA must see in order to approve your application vary based on the listing under which you may qualify. Records may include:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements, if matching the Section 5.08 listing for severe weight loss
  • Hospitalization records, if meeting the Section 5.02 listing for gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Imaging scans, if matching the listings in Section 1.06 or 1.07 due to bone loss
  • Heart scans and imaging results, if meeting the listings in Section 4.05 or 5.02 for heart complications
  • Blood work and other lab results, if meeting or matching the listings in Section 7.02 or 9.00 for anemia or hormone complications
  • EEGs and brain scans, if meeting the listing for seizures in Section 11.02 or 11.03

Review the listings that apply in your case and work closely with your treating physician to ensure your records accurately reflect the severity level of your symptoms and complications.

If your medical records do not meet or match closely enough to any Blue Book listing, then the SSA will need to review the combined effects of all your symptoms. This means:

  • a more thorough review of all of your medical records is required
  • you and your physician(s) must complete Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) reports.

These reports require you and your doctor to give specific details about how your symptoms affect your everyday abilities. This includes your ability to complete personal care and housekeeping tasks, run errands, and other daily activities.

A mental and physical RFC report may be needed. The SSA will take consider these reports, along with your age, work experience, and education level to decide whether you can work. If they find you cannot perform any job for which you are otherwise qualified, then you will be found eligible for benefits.

Getting Help with Your Claim

Because there is no dedicated listing for eating disorders in the Blue Book, qualifying for benefits can be challenging. A Social Security advocate or attorney familiar with handling claims like yours can help you construct a strong application for SSD. They can also help you respond to any requests for additional information and can assist with redeterminations or appeals, if you are initially denied benefits. 

Additional Resources 

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!