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Can I Continue Working with Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a type of mental disorder which affects a person’s thought process and responsiveness. Common symptoms experienced by those with schizophrenia include:

  • Strange delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Auditory (sound) hallucinations
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Disorganized speaking
  • Social dysfunction

There are a number of psychotropic medications used to treat schizophrenia and many who suffer from the condition are able to lead relatively normal lives while undergoing treatment. However, many do not respond to medical treatment. Some need to be hospitalized for their safety and the safety of those around them.

Those with schizophrenia often suffer from other neurological or psychiatric conditions. The most common are anxiety disorders and depression. Substance abuse is also high among those with schizophrenia. Often, this is an attempt to self-medicate. People with schizophrenia also have an increased risk of a wide range of health problems. They also have a high suicide rate.

How Schizophrenia Affects Your Physical Capacity for Work

If uncontrolled, the hallucinogenic symptoms of schizophrenia can make any kind of physical work impractical. This is especially true for those who have visual and auditory hallucinations. If schizophrenia is not adequately controlled, being in a work environment which requires physical work of any kind can be dangerous to the person suffering from the disorder and others in the workplace.

How Schizophrenia Affects Your Mental Capacity for Work

Unless schizophrenia is adequately controlled by medication, it can severely affect your mental capacity for work. Besides the obvious problems which hallucinations can cause at the workplace, most people with schizophrenia struggle with social situations. Schizophrenia is often associated with incoherence, disorganized behavior, illogical thinking, illogical speech and flat line behaviors. Any of these can make it impossible to function in a work environment.

In addition, some people with schizophrenia experience symptoms like catatonia, which make it completely impossible to work.

Schizophrenia and Applying for Social Security Disability

The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, Section 12.03 lists the conditions under which you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits with schizophrenia. In order to qualify for disability benefits, your condition must be diagnosed by a medical or mental health care professional. To meet the requirements listed in the Blue Book, you must either have two years’ worth of documentation showing that your ability to work is significantly limited by your condition and that you have symptoms consistent with schizophrenia, such as extended decompression episodes. The requirement can be lowered to one year if your condition requires you to live in a controlled environment.

If you don’t have two years’ worth of medical or psychiatric documentation, the SSA will look at which symptoms you are experiencing, how often you experience them, and the effects they have on your ability to perform daily tasks and function in a social environment. In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, they must be able to conclude based on the evidence you present in your claim that you cannot reasonably be expected to perform any kind of gainful activity.

It is very important that you continue to receive and comply with mental health treatment while you are applying for Social Security disability benefits. One of the main things the SSA will look at in determining whether to grant you benefits is whether you have complied with treatment, and what (if any) effect the treatments have had on you.

If you have schizophrenia, you should strongly consider having a Social Security lawyer or other professional representative handle your claim. They will know better than anyone else how to best collect and present the evidence that your condition makes it unreasonable for you to be expected to work.