Approximately 20% of the individuals receiving disability benefits are disabled due to a mental impairment. This type of disability case is inherently difficult to prove because the impairment is invisible, and the criteria for evaluation involve considerable subjective judgment.

Moreover, everyone experiences symptoms of mental impairments such as depression and anxiety. These experiences are part of the human condition. Consequently, it is very, very difficult to determine when an individual is disabled due to a mental impairment.

If you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety and are wondering about filing for Social Security disability, here are some thoughts to consider.

  • Social Security does not offer short term disability. If you have an acute crisis with either depression or anxiety that makes it impossible to go to work, that does not mean you should file for disability. The Social Security Administration has a 12 month rule. The medical problem causing your disability must last, or be expected to last, at least 12 months.
  • The majority of mental impairments can be managed effectively with professional therapy and/or medication. It is very important to seek help if you are suffering severe depression, severe anxiety, or any other type of mental impairment. Moreover, it is important to be patient. It may take many months to feel the benefit of therapy or medication.
  • In most cases it is my opinion that an individual should give treatment a minimum of 6 months before applying for disability.
  • If your symptoms remain severe despite trying really hard at therapy, and you find it is impossible to hold down a job, you should seriously consider filing for Social Security disability.
  • If you wish to file for disability, discuss this question with your psychiatrist or therapist. Because mental impairments are invisible and difficult to quantify, a psychiatrist or therapist who supports your disability claim can be tremendously helpful. The opinion of a treating psychiatrist or therapist is given serious consideration by SSA.
  • If you decide to file a disability claim, I encourage you to hire an experienced Social Security disability attorney. It is very difficult to effectively present a mental impairment case to an Administrative Law Judge without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
  • If you are pursuing a disability claim, I strongly encourage you to stay away from illegal drugs. It has been my experience for many years that more than 50% of my clients with a mental impairment also have a drug problem. Illegal drugs are very harmful physically and emotionally. Further, using illegal drugs greatly complicates a disability case. If you have a drug addiction, absolutely seek help from a mental health provider.