Mental illnesses are invisible disabilities. Often there are no physical signs to support a claim, but this doesn’t mean that mental disabilities are not real. Mental illnesses affect mood, thinking, and behavior. Mental illness can affect a person’s relationships and ability to work. Some mental illnesses can make it difficult to concentrate, deal with stress, or interact appropriately with other people. How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?

Sources of documentation:

Medical Documentation

SSDI and SSI cases are approved based on medical documentation. You will need to obtain medical records from your primary care doctor, psychiatrists, psychologists, and any health facility that has treated you for your illness.  

Your medical records should describe how your mental disability affects your daily life, including your limitations and any inability to engage in workplace activities. Your doctor should list any characteristics that affect your ability to hold a job, including any:

  • Sensory abnormalities
  • Problems with social functioning
  • Communication problems
  • Difficulty with movement or motor skills
  • Reduced ability to concentrate or pay attention
  • Difficulty learning instructions, following instructions or remembering instructions
  • Deterioration of skills or ability because of the mental illness that prevents you from functioning at the level that an employer would expect (also known as decompensation)

Your records should cover your disability over a period of time and include information about how the severities of your symptoms have changed during that period.

The doctor should document your treatment and how you respond to that treatment. Your doctor should also provide the results of any psychological or medical testing.

Your Own Description of Your Limitations

You may be the best person to provide an accurate description of your limitations. If you can describe your limitations in writing or in words, your experience can serve as supporting documentation of your disability. However, it is important that your statements be consistent with your medical records.

Other Useful Information

  • Information from family members
  • Information from employers or work programs, even if you were fired
  • A mental status examination
  • Psychological testing
  • Intelligence testing
  • Personality testing
  • A neuropsychological assessment
  • Screening tests

Applying For Benefits For a Mental Disability

Applying for SSDI for a mental disability can be challenging, but our Massachusetts disability lawyers can help you through the process. There are no upfront costs. To get started, request a free copy of SSDI attorney John Keefe's book Unlocking the Mystery – The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer