You Could Receive Social Security Disability Benefits for depression
While not everyone with depression may be found eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, there are those who do receive payments.

Can You Get Social Security Disability For Depression?

Important: We updated this article in December 2023 with the latest statistics and current SSA policy. The CDC reported that depression and anxiety affected nearly 1 in 3 US adults (32.1%) during the 2021 pandemic period. And since then, the numbers haven’t gotten significantly better. In a 2023 Gallup poll, 29% of American adults (and 37% of women) said they’d been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime. But is depression a disability when it comes to getting monthly benefits? If you can meet certain requirements, then you may qualify for Social Security disability for depression. We’ll explain what you need to know before you apply below.



What to Know Before Filing Your Disability for Depression Claim

It’s normal for people to feel down or blue from time to time, especially during stressful periods or events. However, clinical depression is much more than temporary sadness and most people need help to manage it. If depression affects your ability to complete tasks in your daily life, then you may qualify for disability benefits.

Every person who applies for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits must meet certain basic eligibility rules. This is true regardless of whether you have cancer, depression, or several different health problems. So, before you file your disability claim with the Social Security Administration, answer these questions first:

  1. Are you currently working and earning more than $1,550 per month? If no, then go to question #2.
  2. Do you have a serious medical condition that makes you unable to work for at least 1 year? If yes, then go to question #3.
  3. Is your medical condition listed in the SSA’s Blue Book (or just as bad as another one listed there)? If yes, then go to question #4.
  4. Can you still do your current or any previous job duties as required? If no, then go to question #5.
  5. Will any other company hire you to perform job duties you’re qualified for that also pay a similar wage? If no, then you can confidently file your disability for depression claim.
5-step SSD determination process to get disability for depression benefits.

Work History Requirements for Social Security Disability Insurance Claims

Your work history also plays a role in whether you’ll get in disability for depression benefits. To qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, you need 40 work credits before you apply. That means you worked 5 in the last 10 years full time in jobs where you paid Social Security taxes.

You also cannot receive any other RSDI benefits at this time. If you do now, then you likely aren’t eligible for Social Security disability payments.

Important: Haven’t worked recently or enough years to qualify for SSDI? The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program might still pay you disability benefits.

Mental Health Conditions That May Help You Get Disability Benefits for Depression

Many people who experience depression symptoms for a short time don’t get a formal diagnosis. However, you’re far more likely to get disability benefits for depression if you receive ongoing medical treatment for the following conditions:

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

What makes major depressive disorder different than feeling an occasional depressed mood? Each depressive episode for MDD can last for at least two weeks and makes you lose interest in daily life activities. You’re also more likely to have a family history of depression.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

This is also called chronic major depressive disorder, though your symptoms are often milder. What makes persistent depressive disorder different is that most symptoms last for at least two years. Usually, the longest break you’ll get from your depressed mood is no more than 8 weeks (2 months) at a time.

Bipolar Disorder

To see how the SSA evaluates bipolar disorder claims for disability benefits, read our guide here.

What Medical Evidence Do You Need to Include with Your Disability for Depression Claim?

Next, let’s look at what criteria the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses to evaluate disability for depression claims.

The SSA’s Blue Book lists its disability for depression criteria under Section 12.04, Depressive, bipolar disorder, and related mental disorders. There are two steps the SSA takes when they review your disability claim.

Step 1: Do You Have 5+ Qualifying Depression Symptoms?

You must submit medical evidence showing you have at least five of the following symptoms of depression:

  • Depressed mood that lasts for at least two weeks
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia, restlessness, night terrors, poor quality sleep, etc.)
  • Little to no interest in major life activities you once enjoyed
  • Weight gain or loss because you’re never hungry or always eating too much
  • Feeling like you have less energy
  • People who know you well say you move slower than you did before or act agitated, almost like you’re angry
  • Difficulty concentrating on or completing your usual work, home, school or social activities/tasks
  • Feeling worthless or guilty for no good reason
  • Thinking about death often or having suicidal thoughts

Ask your therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or primary care physician for complete medical records. You’ll need to provide evidence of the following with your disability for depression claim:

  • Your diagnosis date (especially if it’s new or recent)
  • Current prescription medications you take, including their dosage, frequency, and any side effects
  • Treatment notes showing how your doctor manages your depression symptoms
  • Any tests your doctor used to rule out other mental health conditions, such as blood labs for hormone or thyroid disorders

Step 2: Does Your Depression Also Meet At Least One of These Requirements?

Next, the SSA wants to know exactly how your depression affects your daily life. To pass this step, either 1 or 2 below must accurately describe you:

  1. Your depression is serious and persistent, despite receiving regular medical treatment for at least two years. You must submit complete documentation that supports this along with your disability for depression claim. In addition, you have trouble adapting to changes in your routine, job, relationships, or living arrangements.
  2. You have moderate to extreme difficulty interacting with other people, taking care of yourself, paying attention, remembering things, and/or following directions.

Many disability for depression applicants ask their doctors to provide a written statement addressing this particular section. In addition, you may find it helpful to keep a symptom diary documenting how depression limits your ability to work. You want to include things like:

  • How often your symptoms of depression made you late, miss work, or leave early
  • If you ever got fired or quit a job specifically because of your depression
  • Track “good” vs. “bad” days and how they impact your daily activities (i.e., getting dressed, showering, eating meals without help)
  • Hospitalization dates or trips to the ER, if applicable

Now that you know what to do, how hard is it to get disability for depression? In December 2022, about 12% of people got monthly SSD payments for anxiety, depression, or both. In other words, 1 in every 8 people with an approved disability claim suffers from one or more mood disorders.

Bonus Tip: You’re more likely to get disability for depression if you list several health problems on your application. About 62% of people on SSD benefits now did this.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

Filing your claim through a Social Security attorney triples your chances for benefit approval. Since these lawyers always work on contingency, you pay $0 if you don’t win. The SSA approves 1 in 5 initial applicants for benefits, on average (20%), and most of them have attorneys (17.7%).

You can sign up for a free phone call from a lawyer who can answer your claim questions today. If you don’t receive benefits, then your lawyer receives no money. But if you do win, then you only owe one small fee after your back pay goes through.

Want to speak to a local expert who can triple your chances for getting disability benefits? Click the button below to start your free online benefits quiz now and see if you may qualify:

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.