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Depressive Disorder

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2020 | Social Security Disability Benefits |

What is Depressive Disorder?

During these challenging times, everyone experiences sadness from time to time. However, if depression prevents you from working over an extended period of time, it may be a sign of depressive disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association, common symptoms include lethargy, feeling worthless, and loss of interest in activities. Depression is fairly common among adults. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that stress and loss often cause the disorder. Also, other risk factors include major loss, childhood trauma, chemical imbalance or a neurotic personality. Not all who suffer from depression, however, will qualify for disability benefits. Social Security must consider whether the depression a claimant is experiencing is disabling.


SSA will consider all relevant medical evidence about your disorder from your physician, psychologist, and other medical sources, which include health care providers such as physician assistants, psychiatric nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, and clinical mental health counselors. Without consistent treatment from a health care provider there is no evidence to prove the severity of your condition.

Self Medication

Use of illegal drugs or alcohol may result in a negative outcome. Abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol is crucial.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) Listing for Depressive Disorder

SSA has broken down the human body and mind into (14) distinct impairment categories called medical listings. These listings help Social Security evaluate disability claims. An individual “meets” a listing when their impairment manifest all symptoms required for the listing.

The SSA listing requires at least five or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Depressed mood;
  2. Diminished interest in almost all activities;
  3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
  4. Sleep disturbance;
  5. Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation’
  6. Decreased energy;
  7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
  8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
  9. Thoughts of death or suicide.

Having five or more of the above symptoms meets the first part of the listing. The second part of the listing requires that you have extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning:

  1. Understand, remember, or apply information. (For example, understanding and learning terms, instructions, procedures; following one- or two-step oral instructions to carry out a task.)
  2. Interact with others. (For example, cooperating with others; asking for help when needed; handling conflicts with others; stating own point of view.)
  3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace. (For example, initiating and performing a task that you understand and know how to do; working at an appropriate and consistent pace; completing tasks in a timely manner.)
  4. Adapt or manage oneself. (For example, responding to demands; adapting to changes; managing your psychologically based symptoms.)

The terms “extreme” and “marked” are specifically described by the SSA. In this context, extreme means that “you are not able to function in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis.” Marked, on the other hand, means that “your functioning in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited.”. While these terms are defined in the SSA listing, they are still often subject to interpretation. Providing medical documentation showing that you meet the listing can be tough, but you can use statements from a psychologist, statements from former bosses or co-workers, family members, social workers, or anyone else who can speak to the impact that the symptoms of depression have had on your ability to work.

If your depression is interfering with your ability to keep a job, reach out to a Social Security disability attorney. They can work with you to see if you can be approved for Social Security disability benefits