Am I eligible for disability benefits if I have a mental health condition?

December 6, 2021 in

If you suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, and your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working, you may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits.

Major depressive disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by symptoms such as depressed mood, diminished interest in all activities, appetite disturbance with change in weight, sleep disturbance, psychomotor agitation or retardation, decreased energy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating or thinking or thoughts of suicide. Major depressive disorder can be caused by a combination of biological and psychological factors. It is typically treated by medications such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers, as well as therapy. Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States.

Individuals with bipolar disorder may suffer from symptoms such as flight of ideas, pressured speech, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not realized, or increase in goal-directed ideas or psychomotor agitation.

Individuals with anxiety may experience symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance. Anxiety can manifest as panic disorder or agoraphobia. Individuals suffering from these conditions may experience panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences. Those who suffer from agoraphobia may experience a disproportionate fear or anxiety about situations such as using transportation, being in a crowd, being in a line, being in open spaces, or being outside their home. Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder may experience involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive, unwanted thoughts, as well as repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety, such as hand washing or checking doorknobs multiple times to ensure they are locked.

Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits as well. Those who suffer from PTSD have typically previously experienced exposure to threatened or actual death, serious injury, or violence. This may include events such as childhood trauma, domestic violence, traumatic events exposed to during the course of military service, witnessing a major accident, and may other events. As a result of exposure to these events, the individual may re-experience the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares.

Serious mental health conditions can interfere with your daily life. The ability to interact with others, maintain attention and concentration, or take care of your activities of daily living such as personal hygiene or maintaining household chores can be severely hindered if you are experiencing symptoms from your mental health condition.

If you are experiencing serious symptoms as a result of your mental health condition, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. The most important thing to do in order to build a successful case is to ensure you are receiving mental health treatment. Many individuals are prescribed psychiatric medications through their primary care provider. However, the Social Security Administration may find that your condition is not severe enough to qualify you for disability benefits if you are receiving your mental health medications in this manner. To build the strongest case, it is best to seek treatment from providers who specialize in mental health conditions, including psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosis and medication management for mental health conditions. A psychiatrist may be able to prescribe different medications to treat your mental health conditions than your primary care provider. When visiting your psychiatrist, it is important to discuss any side effects you may be having from the medications which he or she prescribes for you. Your psychiatrist will likely document these remarks in your medical records, which the Social Security Administration will review when evaluating your claim. Further, be sure to discuss in detail with your psychiatrist whether the medications are working to relieve your symptoms, and if so, whether you are experiencing complete relief or only partial relief of your symptoms. Often, individuals with mental health conditions must try several different medications in order to find one that works for them. Dosages may need to be increased or decreased as well, depending on the effectiveness or side effects of the medications that are prescribed. If you have required several medication adjustments, and this is documented in your medical records, it will help establish that your condition is difficult to manage and increase your chances of your claim being approved.

In addition to seeing a psychiatrist, it is helpful to undergo counseling from a therapist or psychologist. These visits will allow you to discuss the symptoms of your condition in greater detail than during your visits with your psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are primarily concerned with medication management, but therapists will spend more time speaking with you about your conditions and offering techniques to help manage your symptoms. There are several different types of therapists, such as psychologists, social workers, and licensed mental health counselors. These titles are differentiated by the type of degree and qualifications the provider obtained. A psychologist has obtained a doctoral-level degree in psychology, a social worker has obtained at least a Master’s degree in social work and pass a licensure exam, and a licensed mental health counselor has obtained a Master’s degree in counseling, family therapy, or another similar degree, and also has passed a licensure exam. When selecting a therapist for the purpose of strengthening your Social Security claim, it is best to see a psychologist, as the Social Security Administration places greater weight on the opinions of psychologists than other types of therapists. However, it is ultimately most important to select a therapist with whom you connect and is accessible to you, both financially and in terms of scheduling.

When gathering evidence for your claim, LaBovick Law Group can send questionnaires to your providers to complete which will address the specific factors which SSA looks at to evaluate your condition. This will greatly help with strengthening your case, as evaluators often rely heavily on these statements if they are congruent with the symptoms noted in your medical records.

The legal team at LaBovick Law Group has extensive experience with Social Security Disability claims related to mental health conditions. Give us a call at (561) 625-8400 for a free case evaluation.