Is Depression a Disability?

In this article...
  • Learn how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) define depression and who is eligible for financial aid.

Is depression a disability? It's an issue that merits thoughtful examination. The ADA and SSDI have established criteria that can help to determine if depression is a disability eligible for financial assistance.

In this article, we'll look into how physicians diagnose clinical depression, the criteria for qualifying as disabled under ADA and SSDI regulations, and why these programs may be advantageous to those dealing with mental health conditions like depression.

Table of Contents:


What is Depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that can profoundly affect the lives of those it afflicts. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness that are so severe they interfere with daily life activities.

People who experience depression may find it difficult to take on the usual daily tasks or physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and body aches. No matter the intensity of a person's depression, it is essential to recognize that this ailment should not be disregarded and necessitates suitable care for enhancing life quality.

Clinical depression goes beyond mere temporary mood fluctuations and typically persists for a prolonged period without any reprieve. Clinical depression may have various causes, including genetic predisposition or underlying medical conditions like thyroid disease.

It's important for individuals suffering from symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) – regardless of the cause – to seek professional help from an experienced healthcare provider if necessary interventions do not provide relief within a few weeks.

To diagnose MDD, doctors will assess the patient's symptoms against those described in the DSM, including:

  • Low mood lasting for an extended period of time
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
  • Changes to appetite and weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased energy accompanied by restlessness and agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • Recurrent thoughts about death or suicide

If the patient fulfills these standards, they are likely to be identified as having MDD; however, further testing might also take place for precision.

Moreover, various other depressive disorders such as bipolar disorder, dysthymia and postpartum require distinct treatments than those used to treat MDD. Consequently, recognizing the various types of depression facilitates selecting a suitable treatment that is tailored to one's individual circumstances.

Depression is a debilitating mental illness that can have lasting impacts on an individual's physical and psychological health. It is critical to ascertain if depression qualifies as a disability so that one receives aid, facilities, and adjustments for healing.

Does Depression Qualify as a Disability?

Under the ADA, depressive episodes can be regarded as a disability if it significantly impairs an individual's capacity to perform major life activities for 12 months or more. Under the ADA, an individual must be diagnosed with a physical or mental impairment that has persisted for at least 12 months, is likely to last for at least 12 months, or will lead to death in order to qualify as disabled.

To qualify for SSDI disability benefits due to depression, applicants must provide medical evidence that meets the SSA's criteria demonstrating how their symptoms impact their daily functioning and preclude them from full-time employment in reasonable proximity.

The SSA requires applicants to demonstrate how their symptoms affect their ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis and show how these limitations prevent them from working.

Veterans may be eligible for VA disability compensation related to service-connected conditions such as depression, which could supplement other government benefit programs like SSI and Medicaid. This could provide a financial boost when it comes to covering basic living expenses that aren't accounted for by SSI payments alone, such as housing costs.

How Does the ADA Affect Depression and Official Disability Status?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in many areas of life. The ADA applies to various aspects of life, including job opportunities, public services, and transportation. Under the ADA, employers must offer reasonable adjustments to employees who have a physical or mental disability. 

Under the ADA, to receive official disability status, one must fulfill certain criteria. To be considered disabled under the ADA, an individual must have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. 

To be granted disability status under the ADA, someone with depressive episodes must show how their disorder affects them daily and why it stops them from doing job-related activities. 

The ADA can be a powerful tool in helping individuals with depression receive the official disability status they need. Yet, it is imperative to comprehend why a medical professional may diagnose someone with depression and the possible influence of this identification on their eligibility for certain advantages.

Why Might a Doctor Diagnose Someone With Depression?

It is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and low self-worth.

People who experience depression may display physical indications such as

xhaustion, changes in appetite or weight, and restlessness. A doctor may diagnose someone with depression if they are exhibiting these symptoms for an extended period of time and it is interfering with their ability to function normally.

The patient's medical record and any other pertinent details, such as familial history of mental disorders or recent life occurrences possibly linked to the depression are initially taken into consideration during the diagnosis procedure.

The doctor will then assess the patient’s current state of mind using questionnaires and tests designed to measure mood levels, energy levels, sleep patterns, concentration abilities, and other related issues. If all criteria indicate a major depressive disorder (MDD), then the doctor will make a formal diagnosis based on those results.

Before arriving at a definitive diagnosis, physicians may take into account any underlying physical conditions that could be exacerbating the depression. For instance, thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies can cause similar symptoms to major depressive disorder (MDD) and therefore require different treatments than traditional antidepressant medications.

It's important to consider all these factors when diagnosing patients with potential depression before proceeding with medication or therapy options.

How Can SSDI or SSI or Medicaid Help Financially With Someone Who Is Disabled Due to Depression?

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are two federal programs that provide financial assistance to people who are disabled due to depression. SSDI is available to those who have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes, while SSI is available for those with limited income and resources. SSDI and SSI both offer a regular monetary payment to those with disabilities caused by depression, which can be used for everyday needs such as housing, nutrition, medical bills and more.

Checking your state's Medicaid program for additional benefits is essential to make sure you are receiving the coverage that you qualify for. With an array of services ranging from doctor visits and hospital stays, to vision care and dental services, it pays off to be informed about what specific coverages you can receive. 

Both SSDI and SSI offer work incentives that allow beneficiaries to continue working without fear of losing their disability benefits if they so choose. This gives them the opportunity to stay employed while still having access to support from either program should they require it due to a disability caused by depression.


Is depression considered a disability?

Depression can be considered a disability under certain circumstances. In order to be considered a disability, the depression must impede one or more major life activities like learning, working, socializing or self-care. The individual must also provide medical documentation of their condition in order to receive any legal protection associated with being disabled.

Is there a link between physical disability and depression?

Yes, there is a link between physical impairment and depression. Studies have demonstrated that individuals with disabilities tend to be more susceptible to depressive symptoms. This may be due to the added challenges associated with managing one's disability, as well as the stigma and discrimination they often face in society.

It is important for people living with a disability to access mental health services if needed, so they can manage their condition and live life to its fullest potential.


It is essential to comprehend the legal meaning of impairment and how it relates to depression when attempting to acquire fiscal aid from SSDI, SSI or Medicaid. The ADA is relevant when it comes to legally qualifying as disabled due to depression, and should be taken into account when applying for disability benefits. Ultimately, understanding the complexities surrounding this topic will help those who are disabled due to depression get the support they need financially.

Discover how to recognize and manage depression as a disability, so you can live with financial security and good health. Take the first step towards managing your mental health conditions today by exploring our resources on HelpAdvisor.

About the Author

Zia Sherrell is a digital health journalist with over a decade of healthcare experience, a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Leeds and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Manchester. Her work has appeared in Netdoctor, Medical News Today, Healthline, Business Insider, Cosmopolitan, Yahoo, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health and more.

When she’s not typing madly, Zia enjoys traveling and chasing after her dogs.

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