Recently I met with a client who is suffering from manic depression and dissociative episodes. Because of how depression and anxiety affects her, she would have periods of time where she was confused, lost, and didn’t recognize people that were usually familiar to her. This happens so frequently to her that it is difficult for her to maintain any long term employment, and she has difficulty recalling her past work.
Typically a dissociative disorder
is when a person’s memory, awareness, and perception are altered. This may happen in several different ways. A person may feel like they are having an out-of-body experience, that they are observing what is going on around them but they cannot interact with other people, or they feel that what is happening is unreal. Another way this is experienced is through dissociative amnesia, where the ability to recall is impaired because of emotional trauma. Other types of dissociative disorders are ones that most people may only be familiar with through television and movies, dissociative identity disorder and dissociative fugue. Dissociative fugue is when a people leaves behind familiar surroundings, thus becoming confused about their actual identity and assuming a new identity and a new life. Dissociative identity disorder, which used to be referred to as multiple personality disorder, is when a person exhibits two or more distinct personalities and no ability to remember their actions while in the separate personality state.
Social Security does not have a specific listing about how they evaluate dissociative disorders. They may take into account what causes the dissociative episodes, like whether it is linked to posttraumatic stress disorder which falls under Listing 12.06
as an anxiety-related disorder, or to acute stress disorder, which is the body’s mental response to significant events in a person’s life. This does not mean you will automatically be found not disabled if you apply for Social Security Disability benefits. While pursuing your claim, you need to be able to prove through medical and other objective evidence that your impairment significantly restricts you from engaging in work-related activities. Social Security will need information about your capacity to perform mental activities, such as your ability to understand, carry out and remember instructions, respond to authority appropriately, and other customary work pressures. Social Security Administration released Ruling 85-16
to explain how they evaluate an individual’s Residual Functional Capacity, which simplified means the ability to work. They will also consider the age, education, and prior work experience of the individual.
The best way to prove that your disorder prevents you from working full-time are reports from your psychiatrists, counselors, or other treating professionals over a period of time. Social Security needs to see that you will be prevented from working for at least one year or more, and showing your condition over a span of time will help show how much you are affected by it. They may also ask that you have a family member or close friend give their observations and descriptions of you and how you are affected daily, especially if it is someone that lives with you or assists you on a daily basis.