Applying for Disability Pension for Depression

Depression is a mental disorder characterized by a persistent depressed mood. People often lose interest in activities previously found pleasant, they feel sad and hopeless and suffer from low self-esteem. Their sleep is often disturbed with the person either suffering insomnia or sleeping excessively. Individuals have low energy and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms can either be chronic or cyclical. A depressed person has difficulty taking care of daily activities, relating to others, and fulfilling their obligations. In the most severe cases, depression can even lead to the contemplation of suicide.

Most cases of depression are situational, with symptoms subsiding after a couple of days or a few weeks. In cases of Clinical Depression, however, hopelessness and depressed feelings become overwhelming and continue for long periods of time. Both genetic and environmental factors and by how a person has learned to take care of stress can cause depression.

How Depression Can Be Disabling

Many people suffer from depression associated with emotionally painful situations (the death of a loved one, divorce), but for the most part, these periods of depression are situational and short lived. But if a person has an episode of depression with severe daily symptoms that last for two weeks or more, their condition may be considered to be major clinical depression. Major depression interferes with a person’s ability to cope with daily stresses and obligations, often rendering an individual unable to operate in their everyday life, including work and family activities.

What causes depression? There seem to be genetic and biological factors, as well as environmental factors. Individuals can be predisposed to depression and the condition is seen among several members. Pressure and other factors can also be linked to depression.

Disability Benefits for Depression

To qualify for disability benefits, an individual with depression must either meet certain specific disability criteria (found in Social Security’s impairment listing manual), or be granted a medical-vocational allowance based on the severity of their depression and a combination of other factors (such as other impairments, work history, age, and level of education).

disability pension depression

Disability Listing for Depression

Social Security publishes a list of serious illnesses that qualify for disability if they meet the criteria. The objective of the list is to be able to grant disability fast for severe impairments. Depression is covered in Social Security’s impairment listing 12.04, Depressive, Bipolar and Related. The listing has a list of problems and a list of symptoms you must have. To qualify for Social Security disability or SSI disability benefits on the basis of depression, you must show you have serious depression to by having at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood;
  • Decreased interest in almost all activities;
  • Appetite disturbance (poor appetite or overeating) resulting in a change in weight;
  • Sleep disturbance (insomnia or oversleeping);
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking;
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt;
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; and/or
  • A slowing of physical movement and reactions, including speech, or increased disturbance such as hand wringing or pacing.

In addition to having at least five of the above symptoms, you must also meet “functional” criteria to show that you have loss of abilities due to the mental disorder. Generally, you need to have an extreme limitation in at least one of the following areas, or a “marked limitation in at least two of these areas:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information (the ability to understand instructions, learn new things, apply new knowledge to tasks, and use judgment in decisions);
  • Interacting with others (the ability to use socially appropriate behaviors);
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace in performing tasks (the ability to complete tasks); and/or
  • Adapting or managing oneself (having practical personal skills like paying bills, cooking, shopping, dressing, and practicing good hygiene).

Qualifying Outside of the Depression Listing

Meeting the requirements of the depression listing above isn’t the only way to get an approval for disability. If Social Security finds that your depression is not severe enough to meet the listing above, it will determine if you can be approved by being awarded a “medical-vocational allowance.” Social Security will consider how your depression symptoms affect your ability to do any type of work, by looking at your ability to:

  • Carry out instructions;
  • Make simple, work-related decisions;
  • Respond appropriately to supervision and to co-workers, and;
  • Handle changes in routine.

Getting disability benefits due to depression is going to be a long shot unless you qualify under the requirements for depression and have severe, disabling depression. But if you also have a physical impairment or a different impairment along with depression, you have a better chance of getting benefits.

See More: Supplementary Security Income for Physical Disability

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

Symptoms of a significant depressive disorder, commonly called Major Depression or Depression, vary among individuals. However, most people find that the symptoms sap their ability and desire to take part in daily living activities, even those they most enjoyed. An inability to focus, sadness, irritability, and feelings of worthlessness, lack of sleep, feelings of fatigue and apathy, or even thoughts of suicide, are common among depressed people. Psychiatrists often use the term “mild” to describe a depression’s severity.

Three Types of Depression

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), on which Social Security bases its disability listings, describes three distinct depressive disorders that can be debilitating and interfere with an individual’s ability to work, attend school, or interact socially with others.

Major Depressive Disorder

The first sort of depression listed in the DSM is a major depressive disorder. According to the DSM, for a diagnosis of clinical depression, symptoms such as feelings of guilt or worthlessness, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, suicidal thoughts, and/or constant sadness must be present every day for at least two weeks. Read our article on getting disability for depression.


The second type of depression recorded is dysthymia. This sort of depression has many of the same symptoms as Major Depressive Disorder, but the symptoms are usually less severe and occur over a period of at least 2 years.

Manic Depression

The third sort of depression described in the DSM is manic depression, also called bipolar disorder. Manic depression is characterized by periods of mania and depression, or intense highs and lows. Manic episodes cause an inflated sense of self-esteem, lack of sleep, extreme talkativeness, racing thoughts, irritability, and increased participation in risky behaviors (sex, drugs, and alcohol, for instance). Mania may or might not be followed by a period of depression. Symptoms of this kind of depression might require hospitalization and can be severe enough to cause psychotic episodes like hallucinations and delusions.

Long Term Disability for Depression and Anxiety

Long-term disability (LTD) insurers are generally reluctant to approve claims for benefits based on mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder. If you’re receiving regular treatment your LTD carrier is likely to force you to plead your case on appeal and to deny your first application. In these difficult cases, it is critical to hire an experienced disability attorney who can guide you through the appeals process and, if necessary, file a lawsuit against your insurer.

Your Depression Disability Case

If you are disabled because of depression that prevents you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. Although you have to meet stringent requirements in order to receive total disability based on a diagnosis, working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate documentation can ensure your depression disability claim will have the best possible chance of success.

More about the Condition

Depression also referred to as unipolar depression, clinical depression, major depressive disorder and major depression, is a disorder that is characterized by grief, sadness, irritability, low mood and a loss of interest in normal activities. It is usually experienced in early to mid-adulthood. Children may have depression as well, though it’s more challenging to diagnose than adults. There are no laboratory tests for depression, though evaluations for other conditions may run. There are, however, many diagnostic tools such as surveys and questionnaires that help with the diagnosis of depression.

Depression can be a once in a lifetime event or reoccur during one’s life. Depression may last for a lifetime or can last for a short time, weeks or months. Symptoms may include low libido, crying spells, low energy, body aches and a change in sleeping patterns, eating habits and weight. Those with depression may experience feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, inappropriate guilt, difficulty thinking, pessimism, and anxiousness. They find themselves experiencing headaches and chronic pain and may feel sluggish. They may also withdraw from social situations and in extreme cases have thoughts of suicide or death or attempt suicide. Usually, these symptoms, with the exception of thoughts of suicide or a suicidal attempt, need to be present for at least two weeks before a diagnosis can be made.

Depression is oftentimes paired with other mental conditions, such as anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder. There are different ratings of depression from moderate and mild to severe, and different types and subtypes, such as postpartum depression.

See More: Work Related Social Security Disability