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Can I qualify for SSD if I have clinical depression?

Public education campaigns continue to increase awareness related to how significantly mental illness can affect a person's life. Clinical depression remains one of the more common diagnoses and can often result in a mental illness disability, even when a person receives adequate treatment. Although many people may not realize that mental illness can qualify a person to receive Social Security Disability benefits, many mental disorders, including depression, are listed in the SSD Blue Book.

Depression is described in the Social Security Blue Book, the source that lists out qualifying medical impairments and conditions, in section 12.04, "Affective disorders." Not all depression diagnoses will qualify for SSD benefits, however. There is a baseline level of severity that is required for an applicant to satisfy the medical condition eligibility requirements for SSD based on mental conditions.

There are two different ways that applicants can show that their depression is severe enough to be eligible to receive benefits. Essentially, there are three categories of evidence related to the severity of depression of other affective disorders. If an applicant can meet the requirements of categories A and B, they may be eligible for benefits. Alternatively, an applicant who can demonstrate satisfaction of category C criteria on its own may qualify.

Category A requires a medically documented persistence of a range of symptoms. The persistence of symptoms can be either continuous or intermittent. Described symptoms relevant to depression include a significantly pervasive loss of interest in nearly all activities, sleep or appetite disturbances, reduced levels of energy, difficulty with concentration or thinking, suicidal thoughts, psychomotor problems, and hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking.

At least four of these symptoms must be present to satisfy category A. Category B requires that an applicant can show that the symptoms cause at least two of the following: marked difficulties in social functioning, marked difficulties in concentration, repeated decompensation, or marked restriction of daily living activities. Finally, category C requires a documented history of depression lasting at least two years that has significantly limited work abilities, as well as repeated decompensation, a residual disease process or a history of inability to function in a normal environment of one year or more.

Source: Social Security Disability, "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security: 12.00 Mental Disorders - Adult," accessed on March 23, 2015

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