It can be very difficult to get disability benefits for mental impairments, which include cognitive, emotional, psychological and psychiatric problems. Advancements in medication and treatment options have made living with mental illness more “manageable” in regards to activities of daily living (ADLs) and employment. As such, Social Security has very specific requirements that must be met in order for an applicant to be awarded benefits based solely on mental impairments.

Social Security has a set of disability listings for mental disorders, including depression-related illness, anxiety-related disorders, psychotic disorders to autism, ADHD and learning disabilities, and mental retardation (intellectual developmental disorder) and low IQ. The disability listings contain criteria that the disorders must meet to be considered disabling.

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Even if an applicant’s disorder doesn’t “meet” the listing, if they can prove they can’t do even a simple, unskilled job due to emotional, psychiatric, or brain-related problems, they could get disability benefits.

Advice for Advocates

Treatment notes, therapy notes, progress reports, psychological evaluations, neurological exams, school records, prison records (if applicable), vocational rehab records, and evidence of past work attempts are all extremely valuable evidence sources when applying for disability based on mental impairments.