• Justin S. Raines

How do you prove that depression is disabling?


Everyone feels depressed, sad, empty, or irritable sometimes. These feelings are part of the normal range of human emotions. But depressive disorders go beyond occasionally experiencing these feelings. Depressive disorders persist and are accompanied by physical and cognitive symptoms that significantly affect a person’s functioning.


But merely having a diagnosis of a depressive disorder is not enough to win a disability case. This is because depressive disorders can have a range of severity. Some people have more mild symptoms of depression, and some people have more severe symptoms of depression.


There are many types of depressive disorders that may develop over a person’s lifetime, including major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V), the key differences between the different depressive disorders are “duration, timing, or presumed etiology” or causes of the depressive disorders.


Depressive disorders can also be accompanied by anxiety, melancholy, psychosis (losing touch with reality), and even catatonia. Major depressive disorder can also make physical symptoms much worse. The DSM-V explains, “[T]hose with major depressive disorder have more pain and physical illness and greater decreases in physical, social, and role functioning.”


Whether a person is applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the key to winning is showing that the disorder is severe enough to keep the person from performing substantial gainful activity. This means demonstrating compelling medical or psychological evidence that documents the various mental limitations that result from depressive disorders.


When people have a severe physical or mental illness or injury that prevents them from working, they should contact an experienced disability lawyer for help and advice about their case.

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