Yes, a mental illness can be a disability

by | Sep 26, 2016 | Social Security Disability

Mental illnesses are far more prevalent than most people realize. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, roughly 1 in 25 adults experience a serious mental illness that impacts their life in a major way. For some, this means an inability to keep a job or earn a consistent living.

We don’t usually think of mental illness as a disability. Yet, as anyone with a serious mental illness knows, it can be debilitating. The affects of a mental illness are in some cases just as significant as a serious physical injury. They may leave you unable to function for weeks or months on end.

Which mental illnesses qualify?

If you’re unable to hold down a job because of a mental illness, you might be eligible for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Diagnoses that may qualify as disabilities include:

  • Autism and related disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Substance addiction

To receive benefits, however, your illness must be well-documented and severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day functioning. The prognosis also matters: Your condition must be expected to last for at least a year.

Proving your case can be difficult

Because mental illnesses aren’t obvious in the same way as a broken bone or back injury, it can be difficult to prove that you’re disabled. A lot depends on showing how the illness affects your life, especially in the areas of:

  • Daily activities such as hygiene, cooking, cleaning and driving
  • Cognitive abilities such as concentration, memory and perception
  • Social interactions with family, friends, coworkers and others

The SSA will also look at whether medications or treatments can help you function at a normal level.

No matter what type of mental illness you have, there’s no shame in getting help. Financial benefits are just one type of assistance that can make life a little easier when you’re already suffering.


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