OCD and Social Security Disability

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a chronic, psychiatric condition that causes obsessive thoughts, ideas or feelings that can only be alleviated by performing a compulsive act. In other words, anxiety builds over the obsession and you can only get rid of the anxiety if you perform the compulsive activity. The cycle of symptoms is constant and uncontrollable and many who suffer from OCD are unable to work as a result of the condition.

Is OCD a Disability?

Yes, OCD is a disability listed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a disability that can qualify you for disability benefit, especially when it significantly impacts your ability to function in daily life or work. 

Whether it qualifies as a disability depends on the severity of the symptoms and their impact on the individual's functioning.

You may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits based on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) if you can provide good evidence to show it is severely debilitating that you cannot work. OCD is assessed by SSA as an anxiety disorder.

To be eligible for benefits for OCD, you must first have a diagnosis of OCD which shows you have a little control over a time-consuming preoccupation with invasive, unwanted thoughts or taking part in repetitive behavior. Secondly, you need to be able to show that you have difficulties with the following which can interfere with your ability to concentrate on work related tasks:

  • inability to regulate of your emotions;
  • inability to manage your behavior;
  • inability to learn, understand, and remember information and instructions;
  • inability to interact with others using socially correct behaviors;
  • inability to complete tasks and focus on work;
  • inability to adapt to change;
  • caring for yourself.

Under the ADA it considers a disability to be “a physical or mental impairment” that limits someone’s ability to functioning in daily activities. It includes OCD to be a disability.

Those victims who have no choice but to live with OCD know how much its symptoms can interrupt day-to-day living. When experiencing a severe spike the need to take part in compulsive behavior may be severely interrupt your ability to earn a living from work, maintain social relationships, and participate in the world.

Applying for SSD with OCD

OCD is listed in the Social Security Administrations (SSA’s) “Blue Book” under section 12.06, which details anxiety-related disorders. The Blue Book is the SSA’s manual of recognized, potentially disabling conditions. It’s used by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) staff to evaluate claims for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

The listing for anxiety-related disorders requires your application and medical documentation show you experience general and lasting anxiety that causes at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Vigilance
  • Physical tension
  • Pronounced apprehension
  • Uncontrolled hyperactivity

Your medical documentation must also prove that you experience recurrent:

  • irrational fears
  • severe panic attacks
  • obsessions and compulsions
  • flashbacks or disruptive memories of trauma

Additionally, to meet the anxiety-related disorders listing, your medical records and SSD application must also show you either cannot function outside of your own home, or that your symptoms cause you to experience at least two of the following limitations.

  • Severe restrictions in performing everyday activities, which the SSA considers Activities of Daily Living (ADL)
  • Pronounced difficulty in social interactions or functioning
  • Difficulty concentrating, maintaining focus, or completing activities or tasks a reasonable pace
  • Extended and recurrent periods where symptoms get worse, which are considered during which “Episodes of Decompensation”

Even if your OCD doesn’t meet these requirements, you may still be found eligibility for SSD benefits, if your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from seeking and maintaining gainful employment. If you’re approved for benefits without matching the Blue Book listing for anxiety-related disorders, then you’ll receive a “Medical Vocational Allowance”, which essentially means you suffer from an impairment that meets the overall requirements for SSD eligibility, even without meeting a pre-defined listing for a specific condition.

The most crucial component of your SSD application is the medical documentation supporting your claim for benefits. Your medical records must be extensive and clearly show:

  • You’ve been formally diagnosed with OCD by a qualified medical professional.
  • You receive regular treatment from a qualified medical professional, preferably a psychiatrist.
  • You experience the primary symptoms of anxiety-related disorders.
  • You experience recurrent periods of decompensation and other limitations as a result of your condition.

Statements from your psychiatrist and other treating physicians must be included in your claim and should detail your symptoms, how often you experience them, how pronounced they are, and how long they last. Your records must also list any and all medications and other treatments you’ve undergone or are currently using, and should additionally show that your OCD symptoms continue to prevent you from working even when you consistently follow prescribed treatments.

Getting Help with Your OCD SSD Application

Supporting a disability claim can be challenging with any diagnosis, but it’s especially difficult with psychological or psychiatric conditions such as OCD. Substantial medical records and related documentation are required for proving your claim.

Take our Social Security calculator to see how much you could earn in disability benefits.

You’ll need to work closely with your psychiatrist and other physicians in order to collect the appropriate documentation. You may also wish to seek assistance from a Social Security advocate or attorney to improve your chances of being found eligible for SSD benefits.

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