Challenges of establishing emotional or mood disorders

Many people in Illinois suffer from emotional illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 18 percent of Americans, while depression affects 6.7 percent. These illnesses can be physically and emotionally debilitating, and some may even qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. However, proving this is the case can be difficult, as many Social Security lawyers in Chicago know.

The causes of emotional illnesses are sometimes unclear, since both neurological and environmental factors can contribute. Symptoms are often self-reported, which can make establishing credibility difficult. Still, there are a few ways that victims may qualify for benefits, depending on the nature of their conditions.

“Blue Book” conditions

The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” contains a list of conditions that are considered disabling if they satisfy set requirements. Various disabling emotional illnesses appear in the book, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, stress and certain phobias.

For most emotional illnesses, the Blue Book details specific symptoms and limitations people seeking benefits must establish. For instance, an applicant with an anxiety-related disorder must document flashbacks, compulsions, avoidance behaviors, panic attacks or certain physical symptoms. The applicant must also prove he or she cannot function outside of the home or perform regular daily activities.

Applicants can document these signs and symptoms with observations and statements from treating physicians. Statements from close personal sources can also help establish the effects of an emotional illness. Applicants also must prove they meet Blue Book criteria with supporting medical evidence. This could include records of psychological or neurological evaluations, testing and treatments.

Other emotional illnesses

If a condition does not meet Blue Book requirements, an applicant may still receive a medical-vocational allowance. The SSA awards allowances to people who cannot reasonably work due to their impairments. As Social Security lawyers in Chicago can explain, the SSA may consider various symptoms or limitations a person faces, including:

  • Cognitive issues, such as deficits in memory, focus or persistence
  • Difficulty functioning appropriately in social settings
  • Physical symptoms, such as fatigue, low energy levels or sleep disturbances
  • Adverse side effects of medication used to manage the emotional illness

When awarding an allowance, the SSA considers the cumulative effects of any conditions the individual suffers from. Applicants who suffer from a combination of impairments may be likelier to receive benefits through a medical-vocational allowance.

Unfortunately, documenting the disabling effects of an emotional illness can be challenging, since objective evidence is often limited. Victims of emotional illnesses may want to consider partnering with Social Security lawyers in Chicago when seeking benefits. An attorney may be able to provide advice on securing documentation that meets the SSA’s strict standards.