Filing For Disability Benefits With Depression

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability.  If it is not the sole condition or impairment listed on disability applications, it is often one of several conditions or the unfortunate result of longstanding, chronic pain.  The symptoms of depression often include sadness, hopelessness, fatigue and decreased energy, and issues with concentration.  Major depression may include suicidal ideations, suicide attempts and inpatient psychiatric treatment.  Although it’s not know what causes depression, many factors including biological, genetic and environmental may be to blame.  Life events, trauma and stress also contribute to the severity of depression.

To qualify for disability benefits if you are diagnosed with depression, you must either meet or equal a listing published by the Social Security Adminstration (SSA).  The “listings” are published by SSA and set forth the criteria you must meet to be deemed disabled.  If you do not meet or equal a Social Security listing, you can still qualify for disability benefits under the Medical-Vocational allowance.  See our other post for a discussion on the Medical-Vocational allowance.

Listing 12.04 – Affective Disorders – is the applicable listing for depression and states:

Characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.

The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in C are satisfied.

A. Medically documented persistence, either continuous or intermittent, of one of the following:

1. Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four of the following:

a. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; or

b. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or

c. Sleep disturbance; or

d. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or

e. Decreased energy; or

f. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; or

g. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or

h. Thoughts of suicide; or

i. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking; or

2. Manic syndrome characterized by at least three of the following:

a. Hyperactivity; or

b. Pressure of speech; or

c. Flight of ideas; or

d. Inflated self-esteem; or

e. Decreased need for sleep; or

f. Easy distractibility; or

g. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences which are not recognized; or

h. Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking; or

3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently characterized by either or both syndromes);


B. Resulting in at least two of the following:

1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or

2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or

3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or

4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;


C. Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at least 2 years’ duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:

1. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration; or

2. A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate; or

3. Current history of 1 or more years’ inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.