You shouldn’t be treated differently than anybody else. Your accident made it impossible for you to work, so you should be able to collect disability benefits. But will your claim be denied if your body is still fully functional, but you need mental and emotional help to get through the day?

Meeting Social Security Disability Requirements for Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

The good news is that the Social Security Administration (SSA) provides disability payments for mental illnesses as well as physical injuries. However, it is often more difficult to determine the extent of a person’s emotional suffering, prompting the SSA to set out specific rules and restrictions governing benefits for mental illnesses. Your benefits will depend on the type of disorder you have, as well as the severity of your symptoms.

Psychosis is a collective term for any severe mental disorder that causes the sufferer to lose touch with reality, either consistently or at certain points in the day. Schizophrenia Schizoaffective disorder and paranoia are common forms of psychotic disorders, but any mental illness that involves an altered perception of the world or the person himself may qualify.

In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits under the schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders listing, psychosis sufferers must satisfy “A” and “B,” or “A” and “C”:

  1. Medical documentation of one or more of the following:
    1. Delusions or hallucinations;
    2. Disorganized thinking (speech); or
    3. Grossly disorganized behavior or catatonia.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information
    2. Interact with others  
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
    4. Adapt or manage oneself


  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent”; that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder
    2. Marginal adjustment—that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life

If you need help proving the extent of your condition on your disability application, we can help. Click the contact link on this page to tell us about your case, or order our free guide, 5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Case.



Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska