Facts about Personality Disorder and Filing for Disability
These selected pages answer some of the most basic, but also some of the most important, questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim for disability benefits.
Facts about the condition
1) Personality disorder is not one disorder, but a term used to describe many different personality disorders. They are quite common; it is thought that nearly 10-15 percent of people will experience a personality disorder at some point in their lives.
2) Personality disorders are characterized by having emotions, thoughts and behaviors that may be outside the cultural norm, causing one to experience dysfunctional relationships and impairment when it comes to working, going to school, or otherwise functioning socially.
3) Personality disorders are thought to develop due to a combination of environmental influences and genetics. For instance, if one has a troubled home life as a child and is treated abusively, it is more likely they will develop a personality disorder than someone who was treated lovingly in a secure and supportive home environment.
4) Those who have a family history of mental illness or personality disorders are at a higher risk for developing one of the many personality disorders, as are those who had physical, verbal or sexual abuse as a child, or those who experienced the loss of a parent, whether through divorce or death.
5) Since there are many different types of personal disorder, there are many different symptoms. General symptoms may include angry outbursts, mood swings, alcohol or substance abuse, bad relationships, poor impulse control, mistrust of others, social isolation, difficulty making and/or keeping friends, and a need for instant gratification.
6) There are three different groups or 'clusters' of personality disorder, termed cluster A, cluster B, and cluster C. These three clusters group together certain personality disorders based on characteristics.
7) Cluster A includes paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder. Cluster B includes antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Cluster C includes avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
8) Treatment for personality disorder will depend upon the type, but generally includes medications (mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and antipsychotics), psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy) and in severe cases, hospitalization.
Qualifying for disability benefits with this condition
Whether or not you qualify for disability and, as a result, are approved for disability benefits will depend entirely on the information obtained from your medical records.
This includes whatever statements and treatment notes that may have been obtained from your treating physician (a doctor who has a history of treating your condition and is, therefore, qualified to comment as to your condition and prognosis). It also includes discharge summaries from hospital stays, reports of imaging studies (such as xrays, MRIs, and CT scans) and lab panels (i.e. bloodwork) as well as reports from physical therapy.
In many disability claims, it may also include the results of a report issued by an independent physician who examines you at the request of the Social Security Administration.
Qualifying for SSD or SSI benefits will also depend on the information obtained from your vocational, or work, history if you are an adult, or academic records if you are a minor-age child. In the case of adults, your work history information will allow a disability examiner (examiners make decisions at the initial claim and reconsideration appeal levels, but not at the hearing level where a judges decides the outcome of the case) to A) classify your past work, B) determine the physical and mental demands of your past work, C) decide if you can go back to a past job, and D) whether or not you have the ability to switch to some type of other work.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the social security administration does not award benefits based on simply having a condition, but, instead, will base an approval or denial on the extent to which a condition causes functional limitations. Functional limitations can be great enough to make work activity not possible (or, for a child, make it impossible to engage in age-appropriate activities).
Why are so many disability cases lost at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels?
There are several reasons but here are just two:
1) Social Security makes no attempt to obtain a statement from a claimant's treating physician. By contrast, at the hearing level, a claimant's disability attorney or disability representative will generally obtain and present this type of statement to a judge.
Note: it is not enough for a doctor to simply state that their patient is disabled. To satisy Social Security's requirements, the physician must list in what ways and to what extent the individual is functionally limited. For this reason, many representatives and attorneys request that the physician fill out and sign a specialized medical source statement that captures the correct information. Solid Supporting statements from physicians easily make the difference between winning or losing a disability case at the hearing level.
2) Prior to the hearing level, a claimant will not have the opportunity to explain how their condition limits them, nor will their attorney or representative have the opportunity to make a presentation based on the evidence of the case. This is because at the initial levels of the disability system, a disability examiner decides the case without meeting the claimant. The examiner may contact the claimant to gather information on activities of daily living and with regard to medical treatment or past jobs, but usually nothing more. At the hearing level, however, presenting an argument for approval based on medical evidence that has been obtained and submitted is exactly what happens.
About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.
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