Depression, Bipolar disorder – Disability

Friday, July 21, 2017

Depression is a form of mental illness that can often lead to a person becoming disabled depending on the length, intensity and severity of the condition. Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Persistent depressive disorder, or PDD, (formerly called dysthymia) is a form of depression that usually continues for at least two years.

Many people suffer with lifelong symptoms of depression before they are properly diagnosed by a mental health professional. Other people can develop what is called a “reactive depression” in response to an injury, illness, traumatic event or death of a loved one. Regardless of whether you suffer from depression standing alone or whether you suffer from depression as a result of a life altering event, a claimant must seek treatment. Psychiatrists and psychologists specialize in the treatment of depression, and other mental illnesses, and their input is essential to proving a Social Security disability claim for SSDI or SSI benefits under Social Security’s impairment listing 12.04, Depressive, Bipolar and Related. … To qualify for either Social Security disability (SSDI) or SSI disability benefits on the basis of depression, you must show you have severe depression by having at least five of the following symptoms: depressed mood.

12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

A. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1 or 2:

  1. Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
    1. Depressed mood;
    2. Diminished interest in almost all activities;
    3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
    4. Sleep disturbance;
    5. Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
    6. Decreased energy;
    7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
    8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
    9. Thoughts of death or suicide.
  2. Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:
    1. Pressured speech;
    2. Flight of ideas;
    3. Inflated self-esteem;
    4. Decreased need for sleep;
    5. Distractibility;
    6. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
    7. Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.


B. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):

  1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
  2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
  3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
  4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


C. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:

  1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
  2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).

Types of Depression

You can have a single bout of major depression or you can have recurring episodes. When depression lasts two years or more, it is called persistent depressive disorder. A less common type of depression is called bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness. Bipolar disorder involves cycles of depression alternating with extreme highs, or manias.

Specific circumstances can trigger other forms of depression. If you have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), your mood is affected by sunlight. You’re more likely to be depressed during winter, when there’s less sun.

Many new mothers go through something called the baby blues. It’s caused by hormonal changes following childbirth, lack of sleep, and everything that goes along with taking care of a new baby. Symptoms include mood swings, sadness, and fatigue. These feelings usually pass within a week or two. When they drag on longer and escalate, it may be a case of postpartum depression. Additional symptoms include withdrawal, lack of appetite, and a negative train of thought. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 10 to 15 percent of women develop postpartum depression. Untreated, it can be dangerous for mother and baby.

When major depression or bipolar disorder are accompanied by hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia, it’s called psychotic depression. About 20 percent of people with major depressive disorder develop psychotic symptoms, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Many people still believe there is a stigma associated with mental illness. It is important that we, as a society, work together to eliminate the stigma of associated with mental illness as it exists in all socio-economic segments of our society, and can often lead to unwarranted and harmful discrimination in the workplace and other walks of life. People experiencing mental distress in the form of depression or bipolar related disorders deserve our help and compassion. Life certainly has a way of kicking all of us in the gut, and bringing us to our knees, at some point in time.

If you are suffering from depression or bipolar disorder and need legal representation, please do not hesitate to contact our office regarding your situation.