There are several mental illnesses and disorders that the Social Security Administration recognizes as a cause of disability. To qualify for benefits based on one of these disorders, your doctor must diagnose the condition. In addition, the condition must meet the criteria of any other illness or injury. The condition must:

  • Prevent you from performing the current work you do;
  • Render you unable to train for other work; and
  • Affect your ability to work for a year or more.

The SSA requires you to meet these criteria whether you apply for supplemental security income (SSI) or social security disability insurance (SSDI).

Categories of Mental Illnesses Considered for Disability

The Social Security Administration recognizes many different categories of mental disorders. Any of these categories qualify for Social Security disability.

Affective Disorders

Generally, the requirements to qualify for disability benefits differ between each type of affective disorder. However, the SSA requires medical documentation of your disorder that shows you either:

  • Have two or more years of treatment and cannot function outside of a supportive environment; or
  • Have medical evidence that your mental illness prevents you from reasonably functioning in any work environment.

This category includes illnesses like depression, bipolar, or other mood disorders.

Psychotic Disorders

This category also requires two years or more of medical documentation showing that your condition severely limits your ability to work. The documentation must also show that changes in the work environment would lead to more issues.

Alternatively, you may qualify if any of the following conditions affect your ability to function normally in a social setting:

  • Delusions,
  • Hallucinations,
  • Catatonia,
  • Incoherence,
  • Disorganization,
  • Illogical thinking,
  • Isolation, or
  • Speech affected by flat affect, blunt affect, or inappropriate effect.

Mental illnesses like paranoia and schizophrenia fall under the psychotic disorder category.

Anxiety Disorders

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits when suffering from a type of anxiety disorder, your medical documentation must show at least one of the following:

  • Consistent irrational fear,
  • Recurring and unpredictable weekly panic attacks,
  • Persistent anxiety with symptoms of apprehensive expectation, motor tension, etc., or
  • Compulsions and obsessions leading to distress.

These symptoms must also affect your ability to work or function in social situations.

Organic Disorders

For organic disorders, your medical documentation must show that the conditions persisted for two years or more despite treatment and hinders you from performing basic functions. This includes illnesses like Alzheimer’s, delirium, dementia, and other diseases that affect the nervous system.

Substance Abuse or Drug Addiction

This category requires you to have medically documented evidence that your substance abuse or addiction causes you to meet the criteria of another mental disorder, neurological disorder, or digestive disorder. 

Alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, and illicit drug addiction qualify for this category.

Somatoform Disorders

To qualify for Social Security disability benefits with a somatoform disorder, you need medical evidence that, by age 30, you had unexplained physical symptoms that required you to make lifestyle changes. This includes the loss of:

  • Speech, 
  • Hearing,
  • Sight,
  • Movement,
  • Sensation, or
  • Use of limbs.

You must also prove that these symptoms lasted for several years.

Personality Disorders

For this category, you need evidence showing that your mental illness makes you unable to adapt to social or work situations. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must exhibit at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Aggressiveness,
  • Passiveness,
  • Seclusion,
  • Dependence,
  • Mood disturbances,
  • Impulsive behavior,
  • Odd thought, behavior, or speech patterns,
  • Hostility,
  • Suspiciousness, or
  • Autistic thinking.

This includes mental illnesses like passive-aggressive disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.


To qualify for benefits due to autism or similar development disorders, you must provide medical evidence that your condition limits your ability to interact socially, communicate, or engage in more than a few activities. You must also show that these limit your ability to work or function normally in a social environment.

Mentally Handicapped

Individuals with mental handicaps or similar conditions qualify for benefits if they have any medical documentation showing any of the following:

  • An IQ less than 60;
  • An IQ less than 70 with other mental or physical conditions that limit your ability to function day to day; or
  • Dependence on external assistance for basic needs such as getting dressed, eating, bathing, and using the bathroom.

Legal caregivers or guardians of individuals who qualify for this category may apply on their behalf.

Contact a Social Security Disability Advocate Today

At GAR Disability Advocates, we understand how difficult the disability benefits application process can be. If you need to apply for Social Security disability benefits because of a mental illness or disorder, we can help.

Our advocates assist clients with every step of the process from filing the initial application to scheduling a hearing. We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you owe us nothing unless we get you approved for benefits. Call us today at 201-561-7731 or fill our online form for a free evaluation.