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What is Schizophrenia? - Social Security Disability Attorney

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that makes it difficult for a person to think logically and tell the difference between real and unreal experiences. A person with schizophrenia also finds it difficult to display normal emotions and to interact normally in social situations. A full two million American adults—or about one percent of the adult population—suffer from schizophrenia, and both men and women are afflicted. This mental illness usually appears in late teen years or in young adulthood, but the onset tends to be later in women.

Schizophrenia can be just as disabling as a physical illness. Although it is often feared and misunderstood, schizophrenia is a treatable medical condition. Schizophrenia, like many mental illnesses, is thought to have both genetic and environmental causes. A person who has a relative with schizophrenia is more likely to develop the condition themselves.

If you suffer from schizophrenia that prevents you from working, you may be entitled to monthly disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. A Social Security attorney or law firm can help you file your application for disability benefits and help present the evidence about your schizophrenia in the most compelling way possible.

Schizophrenia & Social Security Disability Benefits

Schizophrenia can be just as disabling as any physical illness, so people who suffer from it and cannot work are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. When applying for Social Security benefits, a licensed mental health professional or physician must evaluate your condition and determine if your schizophrenia is so severe that it will prevent you from working and persist for more than 12 months.

The Social Security Administration, when evaluating an individual for disability on the basis of a schizophrenia, wants to see a complete picture of the applicant's mental health. This means an applicant may be asked to provide evidence from medical tests, psychiatric records, personality testing, work history, and evidence of treatment.

Living with Schizophrenia - SSDI & SSI Benefits

Therapy and support groups can be very helpful to a person who has schizophrenia. In therapy, a person can be taught behavioral techniques that can help an individual develop social and job skills. A person with schizophrenia must be taught to recognize the early signs of a relapse, the importance of taking their medicines, and to learn how to cope with the symptoms that linger despite medication. A person must also know how to manage their money and use public transit. A therapist can help accomplish these goals.

If you have any of the following feelings, you should contact a mental health provider immediately:

  • You hear voices that tell you to hurt yourself or others.
  • You are having suicidal thoughts.
  • You feel overwhelmed or hopeless.
  • You are not able to care for yourself.
  • You are hallucinating.
  • You cannot leave the house.

Family members of an individual with schizophrenia should attempt to learn everything they can about the disorder to help their relative stick with their treatment regimen.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

When found in combination, the following symptoms are some of the classic signs of schizophrenia:

  1. Catatonic or other grossly disorganized behavior
  2. Delusions or hallucinations;
  3. Emotional withdrawal and/or isolation
  4. Incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, or poverty of content of speech; and

If you have several of the above symptoms and at least two of the following restrictions to your functioning, it is likely that the SSA will approve your application for disability benefits based on your schizophrenia: 

  • Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace;
  • Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;
  • Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
  • Marked restriction of activities of daily living.

If you have suffered from chronic schizophrenia for the past two years and have medical documentation to back that diagnosis up as well as evidence that you have not been able to work, the SSA will likely approve your application for disability benefits.

Tips when applying for a SSI or SSDI claim for schizophrenia:

  1. Collect records of all hospitalizations and treatment. It is crucial to save documentation that shows when you have been hospitalized as part of your treatment for schizophrenia. The more detailed records you have, the more likely the SSA is to approve your claim for Social Security disability. At a bare minimum, these records should contain discharge records, but you should strive to present records that show much more information. We can connect you with an experienced Social Security attorney who can look over your case and make recommendations for steps you need to take to have your application approved.
  2. Be both thorough and concise on your application. When applying, you want to make sure you are giving the SSA a full picture of your mental condition and its impact on your life. At the same time you want to make sure that information is presented in a way that is easily understood. Consider using bullet points on your application to break down information into bite-sized chunks. If you hire a Social Security lawyer to help you with your application, your attorney will review your application and make sure if presents your case in a understandable and thoughtful way.
  3. Keep copies of school records. If you are still in school, keeping copies of your report cards and graded assignments can help document how your schizophrenia is impacting your grades and ability to function. The Social Security Administration might find it illuminating to know you were typically an A & B student, but, after your schizophrenia diagnosis your cards dropped to Cs and Ds. While your application may not ask for this information, it is important to include and helps provide a full picture of an applicant's disability. This is especially true when dealing with cases of childhood schizophrenia, and for all applicants with a history of schizophrenia who are in college. For those who work, any examples of how your illness has impacted any work product (i.e. a written report) can also be useful evidence.
  4. Consider enrolling in a research study. Your willingness to enroll in a research study demonstrates to the Social Security Administration that you are committed to treating and resolving your mental illness. Participating in a study can also help you learn more things about your mental illness and help establish what underlying causes might exist. Another good thing about participating in a study is that you can undergo more testing you would not normally have, which may further document your illness. These tests can include MRI, EEG, fMRI, PET, MMPI, WISC, etc.

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