Mental illness affects millions of people in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20.6 percent of American adults dealt with mental illness in 2019. About five percent of U.S. adults experienced severe mental illness in the same year. Many individuals with mental illness find it difficult to be successful at work and to maintain healthy, fulfilling relationships.
At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we have years of experience helping Tennessee residents and their families apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. If you have a mental illness, we can help you understand whether it qualifies for SSDI payments. We’ll also walk you through the application (or appeal) process if needed.
Call our office in Jackson at 731-513-5282 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.
What Is SSDI?
The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program is designed to help individuals who are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability. You may qualify for SSDI payments if your mental disorder is recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and if it prevents you from working for at least 12 months. To be eligible for SSDI, you must have enough Social Security work credits. You build up these credits by earning income and paying Social Security taxes.
Mental Disorders That Qualify for SSDI
Mental disorders vary widely in terms of severity and symptoms. The SSA decides whether your mental illness qualifies for SSDI benefits, but you can file an appeal if your claim is denied. The SSA’s “Blue Book” includes a list of 11 different types of mental disorders that can qualify for SSDI. Here are the different categories of mental disorders and some examples of recognized conditions.
Mental disorders in this category include symptoms such as hallucinations, catatonic behavior, delusions, and a significant functional decline. This is associated with conditions like:
- Delusional disorder
- Schizoaffective disorder
Individuals with psychotic disorders may experience paranoia and social withdrawal that affect their ability to work and function in society.
This category includes mental disorders that cause a significant decline in cognitive functioning, like:
- Dementia due to a medical condition (e.g. progressive brain tumor, HIV, traumatic brain injury)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Vascular dementia
Neurocognitive disorders can include symptoms such as memory loss and problems with speech, decision-making, and judgment.
Excessive anxiety, fear, and apprehension are characteristics of anxiety disorders. Other symptoms may include sleeplessness, panic attacks, and muscle tension. Common conditions in this category include:
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Anxiety that is related to trauma, such as PTSD, is evaluated under a different category.
Characteristics of these disorders include loss of interest, mood swings, and clinically significant changes in sleep, weight, appetite, or energy. These include:
- Bipolar disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Cyclothymic disorder
Recent statistics show that Tennessee ranks higher than all other states for depression. As reported by the Memphis Commercial Appeal, over 28 percent of Tennessee residents reported symptoms of depression in a Centers for Disease Control survey in 2020.
This category includes disorders from significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, with symptoms such as poor social or conceptual skills. Other terms for these conditions include intellectual disability and intellectual developmental disorder.
Somatic symptom disorders
This category covers disorders that manifest physical symptoms that are not feigned but that cannot be explained by another mental disorder or a physical medical condition. These include:
- Illness anxiety disorder
- Conversion disorder
Somatic symptom disorders may be characterized by pain, fatigue, and pseudoneurological blindness or deafness.
These disorders have to do with disturbances in eating behavior. Some common symptoms are preoccupation with body weight, binge eating, food restriction, and self-induced vomiting associated with:
- Restrictive food disorder
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
These conditions can lead to other problems including dental issues, irritability, and cardiac abnormalities.
This category covers mental illness related to trauma and stress. Some common symptoms are flashbacks, persistent fear or anger, anxiety, aggression, and sleep problems. The most common example of this mental illness is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Disorders in this category begin during childhood or adolescence, though they may not be diagnosed until adulthood. This can include:
- Learning disorders
- Tourette syndrome
- Borderline intellectual functioning
Common symptoms include repeated accidental injuries, poor attention or impulse control, and abnormal cognitive processing.
Autism spectrum disorders
The SSA defines these disorders as those characterized by qualitative deficits in the development of certain skills relating to social interaction, behavior patterns, and communication skills. Autism spectrum disorders may include symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, unusual responses to stimuli, and self-injurious actions.
This category also includes impulse-control disorders characterized by inflexible or pervasive behavior patterns. Conditions under this category include:
- Paranoid disorder
- Intermittent explosive disorder
- Schizotypal disorder
Some common symptoms include patterns of suspicion or distrust, social detachment, decision-making difficulties, perfectionism, and impulsive anger.
Applying for SSDI for a Mental Disorder
To prove to the SSA that your mental disorder qualifies for SSDI benefits, your application must include comprehensive medical records of diagnosis and treatment for the mental illness. You need to be able to show that your symptoms are severe enough to prevent you from working for at least 12 months.
The SSDI application forms are complicated and many applicants are initially denied due to errors in the paperwork or missing medical documentation. A disability attorney helps applicants with each step of the process: filling out the application, gathering adequate documentation, and appealing a denied claim (if necessary).
Get Expert Help With Your SSDI Claim
Mental illness affects many Tennessee residents and their families. There are numerous mental disorders that qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, but the majority of initial applications are denied. In many cases, claims are rejected due to errors or incomplete documentation. An attorney can simplify the process and give applicants a better chance of getting approval for SSDI payments.
At The Law Offices of Michael Hartup, we know that it can be challenging to initiate an SSDI claim while you are also in treatment for a mental disorder. Our disability attorneys have the experience and knowledge to guide you through the application and appeals process.