If you’ve faced challenges in maintaining employment due to depression, you may be eligible for disability benefits. In 2020, approximately 13% of individuals received disability benefits for mental health issues, with around 5% dealing with depression or similar conditions. 

To assist you in understanding the eligibility criteria, we will outline the Social Security Administration’s definition of depression, the circumstances under which depression can be considered a disability, and the process of obtaining disability benefits for depression.

Is Depression A Disability?

Depression can be considered a disability when it significantly impairs an individual’s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). SGA is a term commonly used in disability evaluation, particularly in the context of Social Security Disability programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

SGA refers to the work activity and earnings level that the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers when determining eligibility for disability benefits.

Eligibility Criteria For Getting Disability With Depression

To be eligible for these benefits due to depression or any other mental health condition, you typically need to meet specific criteria, such as:

  • Medical Documentation: You must provide medical evidence, such as documentation from mental health professionals, psychiatrists, and therapists, to support your claim.
  • Severity: The SSA evaluates whether your depression meets the criteria outlined in its “Blue Book,” which is a manual that lists various medical conditions and their requirements for disability benefits. 
  • Duration: To qualify for disability benefits, your depression should last for at least 12 continuous months or more.
  • Inability to Work: Your depression must significantly impair your ability to perform substantial gainful activity (work). The SSA considers your age, education, and work history when assessing your ability to work.
  • Consistency of Treatment: Compliance with prescribed treatment, such as medication and therapy, is often considered when evaluating your eligibility for disability benefits.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a common and severe mental health condition characterized by persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities.

It can lead to emotional and physical symptoms, including changes in appetite and sleep patterns, causing sleep apnea, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and even physical aches and pains. Depression can significantly impair a person’s daily functioning, affecting their ability to work, maintain relationships, and enjoy life.

Can You Get Disability For Depression?

Yes, it is possible to receive Social Security disability for depression. However, whether or not you qualify for disability benefits for depression depends on various factors, including the severity of your condition and the specific eligibility criteria set by the Social Security Administration (SSA). 

The SSA provides disability benefits through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Common Types Of Depression

Various types of depression may include:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This is characterized by persistent and severe symptoms such as intense sadness, loss of interest, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, and feelings of worthlessness.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): Dysthymia involves chronic, long-term depressive symptoms that are less severe than MDD but can last for years. 
  • Bipolar Disorder: This condition involves alternating periods of depression and mania (elevated mood and increased energy). Bipolar depression is the depressive phase of this disorder.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of depression that occurs seasonally, typically during the fall and winter, due to reduced exposure to natural light.

People who are experiencing depression along with bipolar disorder may also apply for disability. Depression may also lead to sleep apnea, anxiety, and other diseases. Some medical conditions qualify for long-term disability, and an applicant must stay updated before applying for the benefits. 

What if my depression meets the SSA’s eligibility criteria?

If your depression meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) eligibility criteria, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The SSA evaluates depression as a disability based on specific criteria, including the severity and duration of your condition, its impact on your ability to work, and whether it meets the specific diagnostic criteria outlined in the SSA’s “Listing of Impairments.”

What If My Depression Doesn’t Meet The SSA’s Eligibility Criteria?

If your depression does not initially meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) eligibility criteria for disability benefits, you can appeal the decision. The appeals process typically involves several stages, including reconsideration, an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing, review by the Appeals Council, and, if necessary, filing a lawsuit in federal court. 

Throughout this process, it’s crucial to provide strong medical evidence, attend all required appointments and hearings, and seek legal representation. Many applicants are initially denied but eventually receive benefits through the appeals and reviews process, so persistence and diligence are essential in pursuing your claim.

How much is the average disability check for depression?

The maximum monthly payment for SSDI is $3,627 in 2023 and $914 in SSI for depression. The average depression disability check is approximately $1,131.37. Stay informed about the social security payment schedule for 2023, which may be beneficial for the applicant. 

3 Tips For Getting Depression Disability Benefits

Securing depression disability benefits can be a challenging process, but these three tips can help increase your chances of success:

  • Seek Professional Medical Help:  It’s crucial to establish a consistent and thorough medical record of your depression.
  • Document Your Symptoms: Keep a detailed journal of your symptoms, including how depression affects your daily life, work, and personal relationships.
  • Consider Legal Assistance: Consulting with a Social Security Disability attorney experienced in disability claims can be highly beneficial. They can help you navigate the complex application and appeals process, ensure your case meets the eligibility criteria, and represent your interests during hearings or appeals. 

Faqs On Depression Disability

There is no single "biggest" cause of depression, as it is a complex condition influenced by various factors, including genetics, life experiences, trauma, and chemical imbalances in the brain. The interplay of these factors differs among individuals, making it challenging to pinpoint a singular primary cause for depression.
In the United States, for instance, Social Security Disability benefits do not have a specific "rating" like some other disability programs. Instead, eligibility is determined based on whether your depression significantly impairs your ability to work and meet specific criteria.
The Great Depression of the 1930s is perhaps the most famous and historically significant economic depression. It was a severe worldwide economic downturn characterized by widespread unemployment, poverty, and economic hardship.

Disability Conditions That May Qualify For Benefits

Blindness Brain Tumor AFIB Autism
BPD Cancer Narcolepsy PTSD
Vertigo Schizophrenia Seizure Dyslexia
Celiac Disease Anxiety Depression ADHD
Agoraphobia Alopecia Asthma Bipolar
Breast Cancer Dementia Dysautonomia Epilepsy
Fibromyalgia Hearing Loss lupus POTS
Scoliosis Sleep Apnea Diabetes