Social Security really only cares about symptoms when it comes to mental conditions. You could be a severe schizophrenic, but if you can concentrate and complete tasks just fine and get your work done, then you don't qualify for disability. On the other hand, if you've never seen a psychiatrist in your life, but the pain from your back means that you can't concentrate longer than two minutes or finish anything you start, then you might get approved for benefits on mental grounds.
Therefore, it makes sense for Social Security to send almost everyone to a mental exam to see how you function in terms of concentration and memory. They also pay attention to how well you deal with other people and how well you function in your daily activities. Because you aren't working while you apply for benefits, the best way of evaluating how well you will function at work is seeing how much you can get done while you are at home. You also can't work if you can't get along with other people. Every job involves at least a little bit of interaction with others. The psychological exam tests that.
Sometimes you may be really close to getting disability and the mental exam may just be enough to push you over the edge. But on the other hand, you're not applying for disability benefits because of a mental impairment. If the mental exam finds that you have no mental impairment, don't worry about it. As with everything else in Social Security, just tell the truth. But go to the mental exam on the off chance that it might help your case.
There are also questions about mental ability in the Function Report you complete for Social Security. (These are also sometimes called Activities of Daily Living Reports.) These reports are designed so they can hopefully apply to everyone applying for disability. This means that some of these questions just aren't going to apply to you. That's fine. You have back pain, that doesn't mean you lost the ability to count change. Don't claim that you have problems you don't, because it won't make sense when they read your medical records. Just tell the truth.
The important thing is to really think about whether you are having some problems with your memory. Do you ever forget to take your medication? When you're watching television, do you remember what happened on your favorite shows from week to week? Do you find yourself rereading books or articles a lot? Are you finishing things that you start? Do you need reminders of things you were supposed to do? It's normal to have problems like this. Pain is a fantastic distractor, most people don't sleep well when they are in pain, and most pain medicines make you a bit forgetful. If you are concerned, talk to your doctor.
It is also very normal to feel depressed when you are in the process of applying for disability or facing a chronic illness. Your life has changed and you are not able to do the things you were once able to do. Most likely you are under severe financial stress as well. It may not even be full depression - it might be adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder was named for just this sort of situation - when a person is having trouble dealing with a severe life change. It's nothing to be ashamed of and it's a very natural emotion. If your doctor has not already talked to you about it, tell your doctor that you are feeling depressed. There are lots of options for counseling and medication. See our resources page for information. Your family and friends will thank you for getting help.
If you have any questions, please contact The Foster Law Firm at (480)621-7231.