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Major Depressive Disorder and Social Security Disability

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

depression, depressive disorder, Chicago Social Security Disability attorneySocial Security Disability Insurance benefits are not just for individuals who suffer from physical impairments. The Social Security Administration recognizes a wide range of mental disorders. This includes major depressive disorder, perhaps more commonly known as clinical depression. Over the next few posts on this blog, we will be looking more in-depth at how depression can affect you and your eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. [Update: Parts two, three, and four are now posted.]

What Is Depression?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines clinical depression as a “common but serious mood disorder” that produces a number of “severe symptoms” that affect a person's daily life. While many symptoms are not serious in and of themselves—for example, feeling sad or irritable—if they persist for more than two weeks, they may be signs of major depressive disorder. Here are just some of the symptoms of depression identified by NIMH:

  • Sadness, anxiety, or irritability;
  • Decreased energy, feelings of restlessness, or fatigue;
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, or other activities;
  • Lack of concentration, memory problems, or inability to make decisions;
  • Changes in appetite or weight; and
  • Thoughts of death or attempted suicide.

There may also be physical symptoms—including headaches, cramps, or other pains—which have no readily identifiable cause that may, in fact, be signs of clinical depression. The NIMH also notes that a person may still suffer from major depressive disorder even if they do not exhibit all of the symptoms listed above. Depression affects every person differently.

How Does Social Security Classify Depression?

The Social Security Administration maintains an official list of impairments that may qualify a person for disability insurance benefits. This list includes “affective disorders” such as clinical depression. In assessing a disability claim based on depression, Social Security looks at three categories of symptoms. An applicant must satisfy either the requirements of the first two categories (A and B) or just the requirements of the third category (C).

Category A requires medical documentation of the types of symptoms listed above. Category B requires proof that such symptoms have led to a “marked restriction” in the applicant's “daily living” or “social functioning.” Alternatively, Category C requires the applicant produce a “medically documented history” of clinical depression dating back at least two years. The applicant must also prove he or she has “more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities.”

Even if an applicant does not meet these strict categorical requirements, Social Security may still award disability benefits based on an assessment of the individual's “residual functional capacity.” This refers to a person's ability to work despite their limitations due to major depressive disorder or similar impairments. Social Security must also take into account the effect returning to full-time work might have on an applicant who is receiving ongoing treatment for clinical depression.

Get Help From a Chicago Social Security Disability Lawyer

In addition to obtaining proper medical documentation of major depressive disorder, it is equally important to receive legal advice from an experienced Chicago disability attorney. The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits is quite complicated, and nobody should attempt to navigate the system alone. Contact the offices of Pearson Disability Law, LLC, to speak with an attorney right away.




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