More than 21 million people in the United States experience a major depressive episode each year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. But for some people, depression is more than just an infrequent occurrence. It can be a lasting mental health disorder that interferes with their ability to work, keep up with responsibilities, and manage everyday tasks.
If this is the case for you, you may be asking yourself:
- Is depression a disability?
- Is a major depressive disorder a disability?
- Can I get disability for anxiety and depression?
As is often the case, the answer to these questions is “it depends.” This article will break down the cases where depression does qualify for disability, when it doesn’t, and how you can take the steps you need to qualify.
Is Depression a Disability?
“Can you get disability for depression?” is one of the most common questions people have after a diagnosis. Depression is considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, not everyone who experiences depression will immediately qualify for disability, and the process can be long and confusing if you don’t understand the criteria.
The first step in qualifying for disability is meeting the symptoms of depression outlined by the SSA.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression doesn’t always fit into a neat box of symptoms, but the requirements for receiving a disability are very clear-cut. The SSA considers depression a disability if you experience and provide medical documentation of at least five of the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Difficulty focusing or thinking clearly
- Sleep disturbances, such as trouble falling asleep, sleeping too much, or difficulty staying asleep
- Reduced interest in pleasurable activities
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Decreased energy
- Psychomotor agitation
- Thoughts of suicide or death
In addition to these symptoms, you must show that your disorder limits your ability to interact with others, concentrate, manage yourself, or understand and apply information. If you don’t meet these secondary criteria, you may still receive disability if your disorder is considered severe and persistent.
If you have co-occurring anxiety, you may wonder, “Can you get disability for anxiety and depression?” Both disorders may qualify you for disability as long as they impact your ability to get through daily life without interruption.
Disability Programs for Depression
Does depression qualify for disability programs? Yes, there are three main disability programs for people experiencing depression. Which program you qualify for depends on your age and work history.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a disability program for people who have previously paid into Social Security. When working for an employer, this payment comes directly from your paycheck or gets delivered to the IRS directly if you are self-employed.
You are given Social Security work credits when you’ve earned a certain amount of money each year. You can earn up to four credits each year, provided you’ve made a certain amount of income. In 2023, you earn each credit after completing $1,640 in wages, earning your full four credits once you’ve reached $6,560 in yearly revenue.
But can you get SSDI for depression? In addition to meeting the criteria for disability outlined above, you need at least 40 Social Security work credits. Typically, 20 credits must be earned in the last 10 years, though younger people may qualify with fewer work credits.
If you are approved for SSDI, you can expect monthly payments from the SSA. The average is roughly $1,500, though some people may get larger or smaller amounts.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another resource for people with disabilities. Unlike SSDI, you do not need work credits to qualify for SSI. But you do need to have a limited income and have few personal resources, as well as meet the criteria for disability.
But can you get SSI for depression? You can, so long as you meet the criteria for depression listed above.
Some people may qualify for both SSDI and SSI. SSI payments are typically smaller, averaging about $647 a month, but the maximum potential benefit is $914 a month for individuals and $1,371 for couples.
Medicare is a federally funded insurance program for people over 65. Still, if you qualify for disability, you may be able to start receiving Medicare benefits if you don’t fall into this age bracket.
To qualify for Medicare under 65, you need to have received SSDI benefits for at least two years. If you are eligible for SSDI for your depression, taking advantage of this benefit can dramatically reduce your healthcare costs.
How Can I Get Disability for Depression?
When you’re living with a depressive disorder, it can be difficult enough to just get through your day without navigating government websites looking for answers. Can you get on disability for depression? Rest assured, it just takes a few key steps.
Receive a Diagnosis
The first step is receiving a diagnosis from a mental health professional. Several types of mood disorders qualify for disability, including:
- Major depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Persistent depressive disorder
- Cyclothymic disorder
Once you receive an official diagnosis, you can move on to the next steps in receiving benefits.
Obtain Medical Documents
All of the disability programs outlined above require medical documentation of your disorder. In some cases, these documents need to cover a significant period — typically two years. These documents must come from a trusted medical source and provide evidence of the symptoms and impairments caused by your depression.
Apply for Eligible Programs
Once you have the required diagnosis and documentation, you can submit your applications to the programs you’re eligible for. Remember, you might qualify for multiple programs, so send your applications to each program you think meets the requirements.
Find a Therapist With Citron Hennessey Therapy
Is depression a disability? According to the ADA and SSA, the answer is yes, but it doesn’t have to stand in the way of you living a better life. Starting therapy for depression with Citron Hennessey Therapy can not only help you take the first steps in the disability process but can also teach you skills to help you cope with your depressive symptoms.
Contact our team by calling (917) 216-7787 to make an appointment with one of our therapists and start your path to healing today.