What is Depressive Disorder?

Pretty much everyone experiences sadness from time to time.  After all, change and rejection are natural parts of life.  However, if depression prevents you from working over an extended time frame, it may be a sign of depressive disorder.  The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that common symptoms include lethargy, feeling worthless, and loss of interest in activities.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is fairly common among adults.  The NIMH reports that stress and loss often cause the disorder.  Also, other risk factors include major loss, childhood trauma, or a neurotic personality.  If you suffer from depressive disorder, you may qualify for Social Security benefits.

Major depressive disorder demographic chart




As shown in this chart by the NIMH, young adult women are most likely to suffer from major depressive disorder.  However, it is still quite common among all demographics.










Social Security Administration (SSA) Listing for Depressive Disorder

The SSA listing requires five of the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Less interest in activities
  • Change in appetite and weight
  • Sleep issues
  • Weakened physical and motor skills
  • Decreased energy
  • Guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Thoughts of suicide

If depression sufficiently limits mental abilities, or is serious and persistent, then you’ve satisfied the listing.

What does it mean to sufficiently limit mental abilities?

While SSA is quite clear about symptom requirements, the limitation part is less straightforward.  SSA’s listing requires that you not only fulfill the listed symptoms, but also prove that you have 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. Either adapt or manage oneself

The terms “extreme” and “marked” are specifically described by the SSA.  In this context, extreme means that “you are not able to function in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis.”  Marked, on the other hand, means that “your functioning in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited.”.  While these terms are defined in the SSA listing, they are still often subject to interpretation.

If you have questions about how this Social Security listing may apply to your own situation, please fill out the form on our main page or call us at (773) 989-9899.