Social Security Disability for DEPRESSION

Depression may be the basis of disability, by itself or in combination with other psychiatric or physical impairments.

If you suffer from depression, it is important to get treatment and to keep your treating sources aware of your symptoms and the limitations you experience. Social Security will rate your limitations in activities of daily living, ability to function with other people, your ability to concentrate, to persist at tasks, to keep up a consistent pace and your ability to deal with typical work stress. If you experience difficulties in any of those areas, you should make your treating sources aware of such problems. We will obtain your records and ask your treating sources’ opinions on those issues.

Depression ma​y be the basis of disability, by itself or in combination with other psychiatric or physical impairments.

There are several forms of depressive disorders that occur in both women and men. The most common are major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder.

The symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Major depressive disorder, also called major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression may be disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally. An episode of major depression may occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, it recurs throughout a person’s life.

Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, is characterized by depressive symptoms that are long-term (e.g., two years or longer) but less severe than those of major depression. Dysthymia may be the basis for disability as well, as it may prevents one from functioning normally or feeling well. People with dysthymia may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during their lifetimes.

Some forms of depressive disorder have slightly different characteristics than those described above, or they may develop under unique circumstances. However, not all scientists agree on how to characterize and define these forms of depression. They include the following:

Psychotic depression occurs when a severe depressive illness is accompanied by some form of psychosis, such as a break with reality; seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that others can’t detect (hallucinations); and having strong beliefs that are false, such as believing you are the president (delusions).

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterized by a depressive illness during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy also can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder is considered by Social Security under the heading of depression. Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depression, is not as common as major depression or dysthymia. Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes – from extreme highs (e.g., mania) to extreme lows (e.g., depression).

To read more about how Social Security evaluates depression, see: