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Mental Disorders and Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits


You can qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for a wide range of medical conditions, but mental disorders can be much more difficult to establish as compared to physical issues. Physical conditions tend to be more obvious and provable by medical records; mental disorders are hard to quantify, especially in the eyes of Social Security Administration (SSA) disability claims examiners. Still, it is possible to make your case before the SSA, and you have a greater chance of success if you retain a skilled SSDI lawyer who has extensive experience in handling these claims. You may also find it helpful to review some general information about mental conditions for purposes of SSDI benefits.

SSA’s Listing of Impairments 

The specific diagnosis of your mental impairment may be important if it falls squarely within the SSA’s itemized list of medical conditions. The Listing of Impairments is categorized according to medical criteria that may apply to individuals aged 18 years or older, including classifications for respiratory disorders, conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, digestive issues, and others. There are nine categories of mental disorders:

  1. Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolarism;
  2. Anxiety;
  3. Autism and related issues;
  4. Retardation that puts your IQ at 60 or less, or below 70 if combined with another physical condition;
  5. Organic mental conditions that prevent you from performing basic work tasks,
  6. Personality disorders, such as aggression, seclusion, and impulsive thinking;
  7. Psychosis and related conditions, like schizophrenia;
  8. Somatoform impairment, including loss of speech, sight, sensation, or use of limbs;
  9. Addiction to controlled substances, which requires you to also prove that your substance abuse is related to one of the other above mental disorders. You may also qualify if your drug use is due to neurological or digestive disorders identified in other sections of the Listing of Impairments.

SSA Approach to Mental Disorders 

Even if your mental impairment does not fall into one of the nine official conditions on the Listing of Impairments, you may still be eligible for SSDI. A disability claims examiner takes a very similar view of mental conditions as physical issues: The focus is on whether you have a functional capacity to work, in consideration of the limitations of your mental disorder. Your medical records are important, but not as critical as they would be when in supporting an SSDI claim for a physical condition. In assessing functional capacity, the SSA turns to various sources, including:

  • Documentation regarding your daily activities, such as shopping, tending your finances, personal hygiene, household tasks, and similar acts;
  • Your ability to interact with family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, and others in social settings; and,
  • Any evidence demonstrating how well you can appropriately and effectively communicate with individuals who may be present in a work environment.

Schedule a Consultation with an SSDI Lawyer 

For more information on how to apply for SSDI benefits for a mental disorder, please contact Steinhardt, Siskind and Lieberman, LLC to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We serve clients throughout Maryland from our offices in Glen Burnie, Owings Mills, Ellicott City, and Annapolis.

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