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Does Depression Make Me Eligible For Social Security Benefits?

Depression is a mental health condition that can make many daily activities difficult. In certain cases, the symptoms of major depression can become severe enough to negatively affect your ability to work. If this is the case, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

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According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is characterized by a constant depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities. Major depression impacts nearly 7% of the population. Though some genetic factors may be involved in the onset of depression, depression can occur for many different reasons.

Individuals with depression experience many of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, every day
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Insomnia or hyposomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating and indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Social Security has recognized that these symptoms may be severe enough to prevent you from being able to work. Major depression has been included in the Social Security listings as an affective disorder, which means that if your illness has been diagnosed by a qualified medical practitioner and is severe enough to keep you from working, you have an excellent chance of receiving benefits. However, because there are no medical tests for these mental illnesses, it is vital that you see a psychologist or psychiatrist who can support your application.

(Source: DSM-V by the American Psychiatric Association)

Improving Your Chances for Obtaining Benefits

It’s particularly important to see a psychologist or psychiatrist who can document the progression of your illness because this can sometimes be the only official record of your depression. If you live with or frequently see family members or friends, ask them to document how your behavior has changed over time as well.  It’s very important that you follow any course of treatment that you’re given; noncompliance can lead to a denial of benefits.

  1. Keep a detailed journal, including a calendar of notes about how you feel each day.
  2. Record any usual activities you could not do on any given day.
  3. Keep a detailed history of your current and past medications.
  4. See a health care professional regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that he/she can support your application for benefits.
  5. Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, unusual behavior or other hard-to-document symptoms.
  6. Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.
  7. Regular use of marijuana, alcohol or other substances can hurt your chances of having your disability claim approved.

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