Need support now? Help is available. Call, text, or chat 988outbound call

Can You Get Disability Benefits With a Depression Diagnosis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18.5 percent of adults say they have a diagnosis of depression. Mental illness is the leading cause of permanent disability, and anxiety and depression contribute a lot to that.1,2

Many of the symptoms of depression affect your ability to work. These include:3

  • Anxiety
  • A feeling of dread
  • Hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Sleep disturbances

The Americans with Disabilities Act states that US employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" for employees with psychiatric disabilities. Reasonable accommodations can include:4

  • A quieter work environment
  • A schedule that allows for doctor appointments
  • Working part-time from home

If your depression makes it impossible for you to work, there are federal programs that can help you with your living expenses. But you have to meet certain requirements to be eligible for these programs.3

Community Poll

Have you ever applied for disability benefits?

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program run by the US Social Security Administration (SSA). The program provides benefits to people who have paid into the Social Security system for at least 5 of the last 10 years. This Social Security tax is taken out of your paycheck each month. The dollar amount you receive is based on how much you have paid into the system during your working years.5

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program for people with a very low income. To qualify, you must not have more than $2,000 in assets. If you are married, you and your spouse cannot have more than $3,000 in assets. Assets include:6

  • Cash
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks
  • Land
  • Personal property

Some things, including your home, 1 car, and personal items such as a wedding ring are not considered assets. You can also put up to $100,000 in an ABLE account. An ABLE account is a savings account designed for people who become disabled before the age of 26.6

Qualifying for disability benefits

To qualify for SSI or SSDI, your disability must prevent you from performing "substantial gainful activity" for at least a year.7

The SSA keeps a list of conditions that may qualify you for disability benefits. This list is called Disability Evaluation Under Social Security and is also known as the Blue Book. The Blue Book lists depression as a disability, along with other mental illnesses. However, having a diagnosis does not automatically qualify you for benefits.7

You and your care team will have to submit medical evidence that speaks to the severity of your disability and how it affects your ability to work. This evidence can include:8

  • Your medical, psychiatric, and psychological history
  • Results of psychological testing
  • A list of psychiatric medicines you are taking and how they are helping you
  • How frequently you see a therapist and how long you have been in therapy
  • How your symptoms affect you now and are expected to affect you in the future

Along with the medical evidence, the SSA will look at how your depression limits your ability to do your job. Areas they evaluate include your ability to:8

  • Understand, remember, or apply knowledge
  • Interact with others
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  • Adapt or manage yourself

The SSA will also look at how long you have had your condition. In order for your depression to be considered "serious and persistent," you must have evidence that it has lasted at least 2 years.8

The SSA has a helpful checklist that spells out everything you need to apply for disability benefits.8

Community Poll

Are you getting the treatment you want?

Where to apply for benefits

You can begin the application process online or by calling the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213 between 8 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday.9

Both SSDI and SSI applications require an interview with someone from the SSA. The interview will either be on the phone or in person. Go through the application checklist to make sure you have everything you need for the interview. The more prepared you are, the faster the process will go.9

According to the SSA, an average of 67 percent of disability claims are denied. Don't give up if this happens to you. There is an appeal process available. Just be sure to start the appeal within 60 days of getting your denial letter from the SSA.10

Community Poll

What topics do you want to see in our newsletters? (choose up to 3)

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

Community Poll

Have you taken our Depression In America Survey yet?