Mental Disorders and Social Security Disability

The Blue Book is used by the Social Security Administration to establish guidelines for which conditions qualify a claimant for Social Security disability benefits. Section 12 of the Blue Book deals with mental disorders, detailing which types of mental disorders can qualify you for benefits, and under what circumstances. There are nine categories of mental disorders covered in the Blue Book. These include:

Each type of disorder is evaluated according to its own set of criteria. To qualify for benefits with that condition, you must be able to show that you meet the criteria or that the sum total of all of your disabling conditions is equivalent to the listed criteria or otherwise completely hinders you from engaging in any gainful activity.

Regardless of which type of mental disorder you are dealing with, you will need to be able to show that you are receiving and complying with treatment. It is important that you continue to undergo treatment while you are in the process of claiming Social Security disability benefits.

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Is Mental Illness a Disability?

A Mental illness can is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and if you have a mental illness you may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

In order for the SSA to consider your mental illness a disability, you will need to be able to meet the medical requirements for a mental illness in the SSA’s Blue Book.

If you have a mental disorder, you may be able to get disability benefitsThe Blue Book is the list of conditions that qualify for Social Security disability benefits. There are various mental health conditions listed in the SSA’s Blue Book including, but not limited to; bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

Your mental illness needs to match one of the listings for the various mental health conditions that qualify for Social Security disability.

Once you meet the medical listing in the Blue Book, you also need to make sure that your mental illness is so severe that it prevents you from working full time for at least a year.

If you can meet the medical requirements outlined by the SSA, the SSA will consider your mental illness a disability and you will be able to start receiving social security disability benefits.

How Much Does Mental Health Disability Pay?

Disability with a mental health condition pays individuals differently, as each person’s condition effects that person differently. Disability benefits for mental health condition also varies depending on if the person on disability receives SSI or SSDI benefits.

The average SSI payment for adults in 2021 is $586 per month and the average SSDI payment for adults in 2021 is $1,277. If you have a mental health condition, how much disability pays for a mental health condition also depends on other factors, such as income if you are applying for SSI benefits.

If you have a mental disorder, you may be able to get disability benefitsIf approved for SSI benefits with a mental illness, the amount you could receive depends on what state you live in and how much monthly income you have.

That is because SSI benefits is a needs-based program and it is only intended for individual with very limited income and resources, as well as severe disabling condition, such as various mental health conditions.

If you are applying for SSDI benefits with a mental health condition, you’ll need to be able to show that you are no longer able to work full time anymore because of your mental health condition.

You also need to have worked a specific amount of time and have earned enough work credits to qualify as SSDI are for workers who at one time could work full time, but now can not anymore because of a medical condition, such as a mental illness. Usually, SSDI monthly payments from the SSA are larger than SSI monthly payments.

Affective Disorders

The specific requirements to qualify for disability benefits vary with the type of affective disorder, but in general, you must have medical documentation showing that the disorder affects your ability to function despite undergoing treatment for the disorder. You must show either that you:

  • Have been in treatment for two years and cannot function outside of a supportive environment or
  • Have medical documentation giving sufficient evidence that your condition hinders you from reasonably being expected to function in any work environment.

Anxiety Disorders

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits with an anxiety disorder, the medical evidence must show that you have at least one of the following:

  • Persistent anxiety with appropriate symptoms (i.e., motor tension, apprehensive expectation, etc.)
  • Constant irrational fear
  • Recurring, unpredictable panic attacks at least weekly
  • Recurring compulsions and obsessions leading to significant distress

In addition, the evidence must show that these conditions significantly impact your ability to function in normal work and social conditions.

Autism and Related Disorders

To qualify for disability benefits with autism or similar pervasive development disorders, you will need to show that the condition limits the ability to communicate, engage in activities outside of a few interests, and interact socially. Further, you must be able to show that these limitations cause significant difficulty in your ability to function in work and social situations.

Intellectual Disabilities

You (or one whom you represent) will qualify for disability benefits based on an intellectual disability if you have medical documentation showing any of the following conditions:

  • Dependence for personal needs such as bathing, eating, getting dressed, and using the toilet.
  • IQ of less than 60
  • IQ of less than 70 combined with other conditions (mental or physical) which limit your ability to function in a work environment, your social situations, or your daily living activities

Organic Mental Disorders

To qualify for disability benefits with organic mental disorders, the medical evidence needs to show that your disorder has continued for two years or more despite treatment and that it hinders you from performing even basic work functions. Essentially, you need to show that you cannot function outside of a highly supportive environment. Alternately, you may qualify if you have at least one condition from each of the columns in the chart below:

Time and place disorientation Significant limitation of daily living activities
Impaired memory (short or long term) Significant limitations in social situations
Hallucinations or delusions Difficulty concentrating or keeping pace
Personality changes Extended and repeated periods of decompensation
Mood disturbances Loss of 15 or more points of IQ
Lability of emotions  

Personality Disorders

To qualify for Social Security benefits with a personality disorder, you need evidence showing that your condition causes you to be unable to adapt to social or work situations and that the condition has caused long term problems. The disorder needs to cause at least one of these symptoms:

  • Autistic thinking
  • Seclusion
  • Inappropriate hostility
  • Inappropriate suspiciousness
  • Odd thought, speech, behavior, or perception patterns
  • Aggressiveness
  • Dependence
  • Passiveness
  • Constant mood disturbances
  • Impulsive, damaging behavior, especially regarding relationships

Psychotic Disorders (including Paranoia and Schizophrenia)

To qualify for disability with psychotic disorders, you must have medical documentation showing two years or more showing that your condition severely limits your ability to function in a work environment.

If you have a mental disorder, you may be able to get disability benefitsThe documentation must show that any change in your work situation would lead to more problems or that you are incapable of living outside of a supportive environment.

Alternately, you may qualify if you have one of the following conditions and you can show that it severely affects your ability to function in a work or social environment:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Catatonia
  • Disorganized behavior
  • Incoherence
  • Illogical thinking
  • Speech significantly affected by blunt effect, inappropriate affect, or flat affect
  • Isolation and emotional withdrawal

Somatoform Disorders

To qualify for disability with a somatoform disorder, you need medical documentation showing that, by age 30, you had a history of having unexplained physical symptoms which last for several years and that these symptoms require you to make significant changes to your lifestyle. You will generally qualify for disability if the symptoms involve loss of sight, hearing, speech, loss of movement, loss or heightening of sensation, or loss of use of one or more limbs.

Substance Abuse

To qualify for disability due to substance abuse issues, you will need medically documented evidence that your substance abuse issue causes you to meet the requirements for one of the other mental disorders, neurological disorders (evaluated in Section 11 of the Blue Book), or digestive disorders (Evaluated in Section 5 of the Blue Book).

Other Conditions that qualify under the mental disorders evaluation