Documenting Depression or Anxiety for Disability Benefits

In order to get Social Security disability benefits based on depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders, you'll need to provide evidence of your impairment. Here are some tips.

By Marjorie Portnoy, Pennsylvania Attorney

I am often asked, "Does Social Security give benefits to people who are disabled from depression or anxiety?" Absolutely.  Social Security recognizes that depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, can be just as disabling as physical impairments. Unlike many physical conditions, however, you cannot document your depression with an X-ray or MRI. Documenting your depression and the impact it has on your life and ability to work is the key to winning your case.  Here are some tips on how to do that.

See your mental health treatment provider on a regular basis.

It is very important that your psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist document what you are going through on a regular basis. Your mental health treatment provider, who is the most familiar with you and your condition, is the best one to document the severity of your depression. Tell him or her that you are applying for disability. Ask that he or she document the difficulty you have with daily activities, concentration, and being around other people.

Do not hold back if you see one of Social Security’s doctors.

Social Security will probably schedule a “consultative examination” for you with one of their doctors.  Speaking to a stranger about your depression can be difficult.  It is important, however that you be as honest and forthright as possible so that the doctor can accurately document the extent of your disability.

Be honest on questionnaires while emphasizing your difficulties.

Social Security often sends questionnaires asking about your daily activities and functioning. Be honest on these forms, but be sure to emphasize the things you have difficulty doing. For example, if you do chores around the home but are not able to complete them, be sure to include that you are not finishing chores or are only able to do them on occasional good days.  

Get help following through.

Many individuals with depression have a difficult time following through on tasks -- and this includes applying for disability. If you know that you are going to have difficulty opening your mail or responding to Social Security correspondence, get help now. Ask a friend or family member to help with your mail and remind you to respond to Social Security’s inquiries. An attorney who specializes in Social Security Disability law can also ensure that you respond to Social Security’s requests in a timely manner, and help argue your case.

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