Is Depression a Disability?

In this article...
  • Depression can be disabling. Learn more about how this mental health condition may qualify you for SSDI and SSI disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.

Depression, Disability and Your Job: What It Means to Be Disabled 

If you're feeling overwhelmed and don't have the energy for daily tasks or self-care, there may be a chance that you qualify for disability benefits because of depression. 

The question of whether depression makes you eligible for disability is complex. It's true that many people with depression are able to work, but some are not. A lot depends on the severity of your symptoms and how they affect your ability to function in everyday life. 

In this disability benefits review, we take a look at what it means to be disabled by a mental illness, as well as how you can qualify for disability benefits.

What Is Depression?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers depression a psychiatric disability. It's a potentially severe mental disorder that affects how you feel, think, and act. 

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) impacts the lives of over 16 million American adults each year. Although it can develop at any age, most people are in their early 30's when their symptoms begin. 

Depression is not just feeling blue once in a while. Instead, it's an ongoing issue where things like sadness, hopelessness and other negative emotions dominate your life. 

Various symptoms can accompany depression, but the most common include:

  • Sadness or feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulties with sleep and concentration
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling tired and lethargic all the time
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt and shame
  • Thoughts of death 

I've you've experienced these symptoms daily for at least two weeks, your doctor may diagnose you with depression. 

The effects of depression can be severe. It may stop you from doing things important to your everyday life, like working or taking care of yourself. These symptoms can also impact other aspects of your life, including relationships with friends and family. 

It's essential that those who suffer from depressive mental health conditions find the support they need to live their lives, including medical care and disability benefits. 

Is Depression Classified as a Disability?

Yes, depression is a disability if it significantly limits your ability to function in everyday life and treatment isn't working. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disability in the United States for people aged 15 to 44. 

As defined by the Social Security Administration (SSA), disability means the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity because of a physical or mental problem. 

In order to qualify, you must not be able to work at all in the next 12 months and have a disability that's expected to last for more than one year. However, it can sometimes take several months of trying before you're approved for disability benefits, but you will receive retroactive payments based on your application date. 

The SSA has strict requirements for receiving supplemental security income (SSI) and disability benefits. Although having treatment-resistant depression is a disability, you won't automatically qualify for benefits. Your depression must substantially limit one or more significant life activities. 

How Can I Apply for Disability for Depression?

You may qualify for financial aid through social security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if depression affects your ability to work. If you think you qualify, you must apply directly at your local SSA office. 

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

To qualify for SSDI, you must prove that you haven't worked because of your depression for at least 12 months. Additionally, you must have worked long enough in a job that Social Security covers. 

For example, in 2021, you earn one work credit for each $1,470 in wages or self-employment income. You can earn a maximum of four credits each year. Generally, you need 40 credits to qualify for SSDI, of which 20 are in the last 10 years. If you're younger, you may qualify with fewer credits. 

How much you receive depends on your Social Security contributions. In 2021, the highest monthly payment you could receive from SSDI is $3,148, although the average is much lower at around $1,277. You can also use the benefits calculator to see how much you may receive. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI payments don't depend on your work credit history, but you must have a low income to qualify. Some individuals qualify for SSI benefits on top of SSDI. 

You'll need documentary evidence that you cannot work due to depression, and you have under $2,000 of assets, excluding your home, car, burial savings and wedding rings. 

The monthly maximum SSI amounts for 2021 are $794 for individuals and $1,191 for couples. 

Medicaid

This federal assistance program helps people who struggle to pay for health care. If you receive other federal financial assistance because of your depression, you also qualify for Medicaid

In some states, you qualify automatically. In others, you must apply. 

Depression May Qualify You for Disability Payments

Depression is a mental health condition that can impact many aspects of your life. If you have treatment-resistant depression that affects your ability to work, it may qualify as a disability. 

You'll need to apply for SSDI or SSI benefits, and it generally isn't a quick process. If you qualify, you can also receive help for health care through the federal Medicaid program.

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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