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When a person is diagnosed with a mental disorder—also known as a psychiatric disorder or a mental illness—it’s usually because he exhibits a pattern of mental or behavioral inability to function in daily life. This pattern can present in a persistent manner, in relapsing events, or even in a single episode.

It isn’t always clear what causes mental disorders, which are usually characterized by how a person thinks, feels, behaves, and perceives the world around him. But mental illness is considered as a health condition that involves changes in emotion and behavior. Often, mental illnesses are linked with stress and problems managing a daily routine and handling work, social interactions, and normal activities. Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness characterized by ongoing symptoms of psychosis that present like schizophrenia but with additional recurring mood disorder symptoms.

Because schizoaffective disorder and all mental illnesses can be debilitating, you may need disability benefits from Social Security (SS). If you want to file a claim for a mental illness, it’s helpful to hire a disability attorney to walk you through the application and appeal process.

Mental Illness Statistics

Mental illnesses are quite common across the U.S. and abroad, and it’s estimated that over 25 percent of Americans over 18—approximately one in four adults—suffer from some type of mental disorder during any given year. That amounts to over 57 million people.

Here are some other statistics about mental disorders:

  • For people age 15–44, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in America and Canada.
  • It’s possible for a person to suffer from more than one mental disorder simultaneously.
  • Almost half of those people suffering from a mental illness meet criteria for two or more disorders.

Common Types of Mental Illness

Many different types of conditions are acknowledged as mental illnesses. Here are some of the most common types:

Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

People with psychotic disorders suffer from skewed or distorted thinking. Symptoms of psychotic disorders include hallucinations, when a person may hear voices, images, or sounds that aren’t real. Additionally, the person may experience delusions—false beliefs considered true despite evidence that they’re not. Schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are recognized as psychotic disorders.

Depressive, Bipolar, and Related Disorders

People with mood disorders—also known as depressive, bipolar, and related disorders—often suffer from fluctuating feelings of extreme sadness to extreme happiness. Depression, cyclothymic disorder, and bipolar disorder are recognized conditions of mood disorders. People who suffer from schizoaffective disorder have mood disorders.

Personality and Impulse-Control Disorders

Antisocial personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder fall into this category. People with personality disorders present uncompromising personality characteristics that cause problems in social relationships, work, and school. Additionally, the person's behavior and ways of thinking differ so greatly from society norms and expectations that the person can’t properly function.

Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

People who suffer with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders respond to certain events, situations, or phenomenon with physical signs of panic. This can include sweating or a rapid heartbeat. Additionally, they react to these situations with a sense of dread and fear. A diagnosis is usually made if a person’s reaction to a situation isn't appropriate, isn’t controlled, or if the anxiety interrupts a person’s normal range of function. Social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all evaluated under the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders section in the SS Blue Book.

Receiving Disability Benefits for Schizoaffective Disorder

 Schizoaffective disorder, is considered under the listings for schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders (12.03).This section  may help a claimant get his application approved. Depending on the type and severity of the symptoms, a person suffering from schizoaffective disorder may have a good chance of receiving benefits.

To be eligible for SS benefits for this disorder, you must be able to prove that your symptoms are completely disabling. You can do this in one of three ways: meet the requirements of a disability listing; “equal” the requirements of a listing; or prove you can’t perform any type of job.

Here's a brief look at how you prove your disability:

  • Meet a listing. Prove that you have an impairment listed in the SS Blue Book, and your symptoms are at the level of severity noted for that impairment.
  • Equal a listing. A person must prove that his impairment is close to an impairment listed in the Blue Book. The symptoms must equal that listing in duration and severity.
  • Inability to work. If you can’t prove your condition meets or equals the requirements of a listing, you need to show that it makes you unable to work. For people with schizoaffective disorder, mood problems and psychosis are likely to make it a challenge to fully function in a place of work.
If you or a family member suffers from schizoaffective disorder or any type of mental illness, and your symptoms are debilitating and make it impossible to work, contact Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405. We’ll evaluate your eligibility for SS benefits.


Timothy J. Cuddigan (Founder - Retired)
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Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience