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Social Security Benefits for Depression

  • Synopsis: Published: 2011-10-24 - Generally SSA evaluates disability due to depression based on medical documentation and extent to which depression interferes with ability to work - Berger and Green.

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Those who suffer from severe, debilitating depression can qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Clinical depression is a serious problem in the United States.

According to estimates by the Washington University in Saint Louis School of Medicine, approximately 9.2 million Americans suffer from severe or clinical depression. By 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that clinical depression will be the number two cause of "lost years of healthy life" worldwide. Fortunately, those who suffer from severe, debilitating depression can qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

What Is Depression

Depression is much more than simply feeling "down in the dumps." It is a whole-body illness that affects both a person's health and how he thinks, feels and behaves toward others. People with severe depression may have difficulty working, eating, sleeping and maintaining interpersonal relationships.

Experts define clinical depression - also known more formally as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) - as a persistent depressed state, often characterized by feelings of hopelessness or sadness.

Those with the condition experience at least five of the following symptoms every day for at least two weeks:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Sad, empty or depressed mood
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions

Episodes of severe depression are also accompanied by significant impairment in a person's ability to work, interact socially and carry on other important daily life functions. If a person's depression is particularly severe, it may prevent him from functioning in the workplace.

How Does the SSA Evaluate the Severity of an Applicant's Depression

Generally, the SSA evaluates an applicant's disability due to depression based on medical documentation, the extent to which the applicant's depression interferes with his ability to work, and whether these limitations have lasted or are likely to last for at least one year.

One of the biggest difficulties that applicants with depression face is providing adequate medical documentation. Family doctors typically do not provide much information about the extent of a patient's depression, but only note that they have prescribed antidepressants. Records from mental health professionals may contain similar information, but do not indicate the severity of a patient's depression. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the SSA to require a mental status examination of those claiming disability on the basis of severe depression to make sure it has the information it needs to make a proper decision.

It is also important for an applicant to provide as much specific information as possible about the ways in which his depression affects his daily life. The SSA will want to learn as much as possible about specific symptoms. For example, in what ways has the applicant lost interest in activities he enjoyed previously? In what specific ways does his difficulty thinking manifest itself

The SSA will finally examine whether the applicant's depression prevents him from performing general work activities. For example, someone with severe depression may have difficulty making decisions or getting along with colleagues, both of which could adversely affect his ability to work.

An Attorney Can Help:

If you or someone you love suffers from severe depression and is considering applying for SSD benefits, contact an experienced Social Security attorney. A knowledgeable Social Security lawyer can assess your case and help you get the benefits you deserve. For more information, contact an attorney today.

Article provided by Berger and Green - Visit us at

Related Information:

  1. Introduction to Depression - includes common causes of feeling depressed, plus medication and treatment options.
  2. Depression and Social Security Disability Benefits - Article discusses the common disabling depression symptoms as well as how to apply for Social Security benefits if you are disabled by depression.
  3. Types of Depression and Symptoms - There are a many different types of depression and although many of the symptoms that apply to each will be similar, there are some additional signs to look out for within each type of depressive disorder.

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