Can You Get Disability for Depression: An Informative Guide

Depression is not a matter to be left unchecked as sometimes it can get highly severe. It can become so severe that it will decrease your ability to work and do any job, even if you have taken medication or opted for treatments and therapies. If you have a question in your mind about whether can you get disability for depression, then you must check out today’s article.

This article covers all the related issues considered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and how you can increase your chances of getting approved for disability benefits.

1. Depression And Its Symptoms

Depression– a psychiatric disability and mental health disorder, is one of the most common disorders worldwide. It can be of several types: clinical depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and postnatal depression1.

A depressed person will suffer from a gloomy mood with feelings of inadequacy. Other than this, several other symptoms characterize depression, such as feelings of fatigue, and loss of interest and ability in all things, even the ones that were once their favorites and in which they once found immense pleasure and joy.

When a person suffers from depression, their sleep routine is destroyed, their appetite is lost, and everything seems bleak, no matter how much motivation and inspiration are provided. The mental disorder can be so disruptive to a person’s life that it interferes with everyday life and affects their daily activities.

All the symptoms that characterize depression can be either chronic or cyclical. Severe depression, which is named clinical depression2, can even lead to the contemplation of suicide. The other types, most of them are situational and alleviate after a very short period of time. Still, when it comes to clinical depression, the negative emotions become excessively overwhelming and last for quite a long period of time.

2. Symptoms of Depression

Depression can occur at any point in a person’s life but is most commonly found in people between 15 to 42.

Your doctor will diagnose you with clinical depression if you have some or all of the following symptoms for at least two weeks and longer with consistency:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Loss of interest in all activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness and emptiness
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in weight
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Pessimism
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Low self-esteem

While depression can be cured with anti-depressive medication, treatments, support, therapies, and other ways, the severe ones make it hard for a person to snap out of it.

When it becomes grueling for you to go to work because of depression, then you wonder if can you get disability for depression.

3. Can You Get Disability for Depression?

But can you get disability for depression? If your depression is treatment-resistant, it has become a hindrance between you and your job, and you cannot do any work. People suffering from depression always try to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. You may be able to qualify for Social Security disability benefits like financial assistance and health insurance.

To qualify for and receive disability benefits, a person needs to meet certain disability criteria. Other than this, the history of depression of the person should be well documented by the person’s treating doctor. The medical record should include all the treatments that were attempted, their pros and cons, and also it should show that the disorder has affected the ability of the person to function properly and manage daily tasks and that they are also unable to work properly. After meeting all the requirements, only then can you get disability for depression.

Although a doctor would diagnose a person with depression that has lasted for at least two weeks, the person must be diagnosed with depression that has lasted or is expected to last for at least a year under the requirements laid by SSA. The person does not need to be continuously depressed, but the symptoms must show up frequently to qualify as a disability.

In addition to reviewing a person’s medical records, SSA will also carefully check if the person has been prescribed any medications. If the person’s doctor didn’t prescribe any medication, then SSA will consider the person’s symptoms and conditions a mere one, and then they may not qualify for benefits.

4. Qualifying for Disability Benefits Based On Listing For Depression By SSA

If you are still wondering if you can get disability for depression, you need to qualify for certain criteria.

As a disorder, depression is listed in the Social Security Administration’s impairment listing in which there is a set of symptoms and a list of functional problems. SSA accepts treatment notes from your doctor or mental status evaluations for consideration, and you will be eligible for disability benefits based on depression. The Social Security Administration(SSA) will grant you benefits if you show at least five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Change in body weight due to poor appetite or overeating
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Decreased interest in almost all activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • A slowing of physical movement and reactions or increased physical agitation

5. Functional Limitations for Disability 

In addition to having at least five symptoms, the SSA also evaluates your functional limitations to determine if you have a loss of abilities due to depression. To be granted disability benefits based on depression, you must have marked or severe limitations in at least two of the following areas:

  1. Ability to understand, remember, or apply various things and instructions
  2. Interacting with others
  3. Concentrating and persisting in performing tasks
  4. Managing oneself

If your symptoms and marked limitations meet the listing for depression by the SSA, you may be eligible for disability benefits. The benefits can be awarded in the form of a complete disability allowance or a medical-vocational allowance. It’s important to have your depression history medically documented for at least two years and ensure that your medical records indicate the limited ability to work and a worsening of symptoms over time with increased mental demands.

Please note that the specific requirements and evaluation process for disability benefits can vary, and it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional or contact the SSA directly for personalized guidance and accurate information regarding your circumstances.

6. Alternative Way To Qualify for Disability for Depression

As mentioned above, if you aren’t showing any severe symptoms and currently do not have the functional limitations but want to qualify for disability benefits and are still in doubt about whether can you get disability for depression, you might be eligible for an alternative set of functional criteria by SSA.

Your symptoms may have been diminished, and your depressed mood decreased eventually because of ongoing medical treatment, mental health therapy, or psychosocial support. Still, if your medical records show that your depression has been grievous and persistent over at least two years and that you are still unable to work and adapt to your daily life, then you may qualify for benefits for disability.

SSA will first check if you can perform any unskilled work. If yes, you won’t qualify for benefits. If SSA finds that you cannot perform unskilled work, you might benefit from a medical-vocational allowance.

7. Apply For Social Security Disability Benefits

Now the question is that how can you get disability for depression? If you successfully have met the criteria mentioned above, you may qualify for disability benefits for depression. You may start by filling your whole claim at your local SSA office, or you can look it up online on Social Security’s website. Social Security’s website may help you in filing your claim more quickly.

Securing Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is quite a long process, and it can take up to a year to get your application approved for disability benefits for depression.

When applying for SSDI or SSI benefits, taking help from a medical professional and hiring a qualified Social Security disability attorney, SSDI expert, or disability lawyer to present your documents at the court when needed will raise the chances of you getting your depression disability claim to be approved. Only when your documents and claims are true and to the point can you get disability for depression approved by SSA?

Many of the applications for disability benefits are denied by SSA due to notes in a person’s medical treatment records that state that their depression has improved. Therefore, a person needs to take care of it and present medical records with a complete history of depression with all the treatments taken. Presenting medical records with the help of a lawyer always turns out fruitful, so a person can also consider that option.

8. The Bottom Line

Concluding today’s article on disability for depression, must answer all your queries on ‘Can you get disability for depression? For more detailed information, Social Security’s website may be checked by you for referral service.

After submitting your claim for benefits, you might have to wait for quite a long period to get approved for social security disability insurance (SSDI3) or supplemental Security income (SSI).

Still, it is worth the wait if you or any person you know are really in need of the benefits. Help from any medical professional and hiring a lawyer or attorney for the court work is highly recommended if you want to make things work.

As long as you are unable to work, till then you can get a disability for depression. Above all, one must not stop preferring better mental health. If you are one or know someone who is suffering from any mental health problem, consult a doctor today and take immediate action because nothing in this world matters more than good physical and mental health.


9.1 What Kind of Medical Documentation is Needed to Substantiate a Depressive Disability Claim?

A disability claim for depression is often supported by extensive medical paperwork, according to the SSA4. In addition to statements from mental health specialists, this may also contain medical records, treatment histories, psychiatric assessments, findings from psychological tests, and prescription histories.

9.2 How Serious Does My Depression Need to be Eligible to Receive Benefits Under the Disability Law?

If your depression is severe enough to materially impair your capacity to perform fundamental work-related tasks, you may be eligible for disability compensation. This means that you must be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA), which generally requires earning more than a particular amount of money (as of 2021, $1,310 per month for non-blind people).

9.3 How Much Time Does It Take to Get Approval for Disability Benefits for Depression?

The time it takes to have a disability benefits application approved can differ. The original application procedure can take many months, and the appeals process, if the application is rejected, can take even longer. It is crucial to maintain patience and tenacity throughout the procedure.

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  1. Levis, Brooke, et al. “Accuracy of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) for screening to detect major depression among pregnant and postpartum women: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data.” bmj 371 (2020). ↩︎
  2. Thapar, Anita, et al. “Depression in young people.” The Lancet 400.10352 (2022): 617-631. ↩︎
  3. McDonnall, Michele C., Jennifer L. Cmar, and Zhen S. McKnight. “Beyond employment rates: Social Security disability benefit receipt and work among people with visual impairments.” Journal of visual impairment & blindness 116.3 (2022): 396-403. ↩︎
  4. Wudil, Abdulazeez Hudu, et al. “Reversing years for global food security: A review of the food security situation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).” International Journal of environmental research and Public Health 19.22 (2022): 14836. ↩︎

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Pratyusha Biswas

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