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Do mood disorders qualify as disabilities? Maybe.

Our readers in the La Crosse area would probably agree when we point out that when someone well known gets a disease or condition, there is a sudden flurry of information disseminated about the condition. Michael J. Fox has elevated the level of knowledge about Parkinson's disease for example. We learned about traumatic brain injuries from Congresswoman Gabby Gifford.

Recently a Congressman from Illinois made the news when he was admitted to an inpatient treatment center for what is described as a mood disorder. This led to the inevitable questions - what is a mood disorder? Could it be considered a temporary or permanent disability?

The answer to the second question appears to be - maybe. Authorities describe a mood disorder as a range of mental illness ailments that could include anything from a mild depressive episode which could require counseling or medication to a florid psychotic episode that results in personal injury or criminal behavior.

The key elements for a disabling mood disorder that were mentioned are these:

  • The mood is intense, meaning it is not just disturbing but disabling.
  • The mood gets stuck, meaning the person is not bouncing back but remains in the intense mood.

These moods are typically depressive, but could also be manic. A manic episode can include anything from abnormally extreme exuberance to hearing voices and hallucinating.

According to the Social Security Administrations listing of disabling conditions, the mood disorder described above would fit under the category of affective disorders.

The SSA describes a depressive syndrome as one characterized by at least four of the following: anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; appetite disturbance with change in weight; sleep disturbance; psychomotor agitation or retardation; decreased energy; feelings of guilt or worthlessness; difficulty concentrating or thinking; thoughts of suicide; or hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking.

There are many more symptoms and qualifications which must be met in order to obtain Social Security Disability benefits for a mental condition. We are not aware of the Congressman's prognosis or current condition, but wish him well.

Source: CNN Health, "What do we know about mood disorders?" Dr. Charles Raison, July 13, 2012

At our La Crosse law firm we represent individuals who wish to obtain Social Security Disability benefits for conditions similar to those described in this post.

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La Crosse, WI 54601

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