Social Security requires that you be disabled for at least twelve months, or have a condition that results in death, before they can find you disabled. Often people have a really bad period with depression or anxiety, but it doesn't last a full year. Fortunately, the combination of therapy and medication can get a lot of people back to their lives and functioning much better. This is why we like to see how you do over time, with proper treatment before Social Security can find you disabled.
Anyone who has any experience with the mental health field knows that it can take a few tries (or sometimes years) to find the correct medication that will work on psychiatric symptoms before the patient can find some form of stability. Unfortunately, with some disorders, particularly bipolar disorder among others, once the medication works, patients no longer believe they need the medication and they stop using the medication and we're back where we started. Mental health treatment can be a lifetime process.
However, a person can be severely mentally ill and still be able to work in some situations. There are jobs that don't require a lot of contact with others and don't require a lot of detailed concentration. This is why you really need to show Social Security that it's not just that you are mentally ill, but that you cannot work. Social Security is particularly interested in your ability to remember things, your ability to concentrate on tasks, and your ability to deal with other people. If you have trouble doing these things, you're going to have trouble working. When you're talking to your psychiatrist or psychologist, you really want to focus on these symptoms if you're applying for disability.
There are some conditions, like schizophrenia, where you may have hallucinations and delusions, these do make it difficult to work. You could work with hallucinations if you are able to keep it together enough to do a simple job. People do it every day. You could not work if you can't show up where you need to be and get your work done.
Other conditions, like agoraphobia, where your anxiety is so bad that you have trouble leaving your house or being around crowds, do make it very difficult to work. Be very specific with your doctors about how and when you can leave your house. Social Security is going to be looking closely at how often you can leave your house and under what conditions.
Always notify Social Security and your attorney if you have been hospitalized for your condition. Be honest if you have been taking your medications or if you have been taking any drugs or other substances not prescribed for you.
Fortunately, Arizona has some wonderful resources available to help. In Maricopa County, we have the Crisis Network. They can have you evaluated and declared Seriously Mentally Ill or SMI. This means that you will have access to medication, counseling and even housing. They can help with transportation to counseling, or even do counseling over the phone or come to your house. The SMI diagnosis is helpful when applying for Social Security disability benefits. For mental health services in the rest of Arizona, check here.
The National Suicide Hotline is open 24 hours a day. Their phone number is 1-800-273-8255 and they are confidential. Arizona's Urgent Psychiatric Care emergency room can be found at 903 N 2nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004. Their phone number is (602) 416-7600. There are so many resources available for mental health that there is no reason not to get help.
If you have any questions, please contact The Foster Law Firm at (480)621-7231.