Monthly Archives: July 2021

Is Mental Illness A Disability?

Mental health is being increasingly recognized as an important and valid factor in our daily lives. As a result, there are many supports and systems in place to assist those who experience some form of mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines mental illness as a health condition that involves changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior. It can refer to a variety of diagnosable mental disorders.

Because of the greater focus on mental health, a big question is “Is mental illness a disability?” Mental illness and disability are far more related than we might think. For those who experience disruptions in their day-to-day activities due to their mental illness or have decreased performance in these activities, mental illness is considered a psychiatric disability.

However, mental health is a spectrum, so each person may experience different levels of impairments in their daily activities. If you or a loved one have a mental illness and or a disability, the information provided here will provide more clarity to the question of “Is mental illness a disability?”

What Is The ADA And How Does It Qualify Psychiatric Disabilities?

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since 1990 to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the workplace.The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since 1990 to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the workplace. The ADA classifies a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual. This means that any physical or mental condition is protected as a disability if it impacts a person’s capabilities.

Mental illness and disability often go hand-in-hand. However, it is important to note that the ADA does not guarantee that a mental impairment is evidence of a disability. Instead, an impairment can be part of a disability if it substantially limits major life activities. A psychiatric disability can include conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and beyond. Any of these conditions have the potential to limit a person’s capability to complete daily activities.

Discussing Mental Illness In The Workplace

If you or a loved one have a mental health problem, you have the option to disclose it to your employer. Keep in mind that it is not mandatory to disclose mental health problems to your employer and that it is your choice. However, you may choose to disclose if you are looking to request reasonable accommodation in the workplace. A notice to an employer can look different for everyone and only requires that you clarify that a medical condition is a reason for the request. If you request a reasonable accommodation, an employer can ask for medical information.

Other situations where an employer may ask for medical information include during a survey, once the job is offered if it is asked of everybody, or regarding a significant safety concern regarding one’s ability to complete a task. Any information you disclose can only be used by the employer and cannot be shared with any coworkers or individuals. Additionally, an employer cannot discriminate or use any information you provide against you.

When Is Mental Illness a Disability?

The SSA Blue Book lists various physical and mental conditions that fit the SSA definition of a disability and the criteria a person must meet to receive disability benefits. Representatives from the SSA reference the Blue Book to determine whether someone meets the criteria to qualify for and receive SSDI or SSI benefits.

The Blue Book lists a multitude of mental illnesses and breaks them into 11 categories. The categories listed in the Blue Book are:

  • The SSA Blue Book lists various physical and mental conditions that fit the SSA definition of a disability and the criteria a person must meet to receive disability benefits.Neurocognitive disorders
  • Schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders
  • Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders
  • Intellectual disorder
  • Anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders
  • Somatic symptom and related disorders
  • Personality and impulse-control disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Trauma and stress-related disorders

Depending on the mental illness, you or a loved one will need to meet certain criteria to be eligible to receive disability insurance. The Blue Book documents the medical criteria that you or a loved one must demonstrate for each category in your medical evidence. It also documents what criteria are used for each category to assess how your mental disorder affects up to four areas of daily functioning.

To be eligible for benefits, a condition must result in “extreme” or “marked” limitation in at least two areas of daily functioning. A disability is also supported by evidence proving that it has not improved with medication. The Blue Book helps provide a case-by-case answer to the question of “Is mental illness a disability?”.

Is My Mental Illness a Disability?

As an example, anxiety and depression are two common mental illnesses and can be considered a disability by the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, it can be difficult to receive benefits for anxiety or depression disorders since it is challenging to document the degree and everyone has a different experience, making the evidence subjective. This means that it is important to have documentation from a physician and mental health professional to demonstrate your history of the disorders.

The SSA specifies that the medical impairment must have prevented an individual from being able to work. As a result, medical documentation should also demonstrate how anxiety or depression disorder has affected your daily living or employment capabilities.

Receiving Social Security Disability For Mental Disorders

Once enough evidence has been established, you or a loved one have the option to receive social security disability for mental disordersOnce enough evidence has been established, you or a loved one have the option to receive social security disability for mental disorders. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) provide options for people with disabilities to receive financial assistance. However, SSDI is only available to those who have been able to work in the past and have contributed to Social Security taxes.

Receiving Social Security disability for mental disorders is ultimately like receiving benefits for physical disabilities, although they may be more difficult to prove. In any case, eligibility will depend on the degree to which a disability affects your daily functioning and ability to maintain employment.

You or a loved one can apply for SSDI benefits either online, at an SSA office, or over the phone. You can apply for SSI either in person or over the phone.

For more information on mental illness and disability and the question of “Is mental illness a disability?” contact us here at Lido Wellness Center in Newport Beach, CA. We are committed to providing holistic, comprehensive care and making a positive difference in your life.

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/what-is-mental-illness 

https://adata.org/factsheet/health 

https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/12.00-MentalDisorders-Adult.htm 

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/enforcement-guidance-ada-and-psychiatric-disabilities

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No One’s Perfect and That’s Okay

Take a moment to reflect on the qualities you value in yourself. For many of us, a term like “hardworking,” “a go-getter,” or “ambitious” might rank somewhere near the top of our list. We might value the effort we are willing to put into our work, our appearance, our relationships, or finding an overall sense of success. Many of us are searching for that moment where we can look at our lives and say “I’ve made it and now I can feel good about myself.” Now, take a moment to reflect on what “making it” would look like. What expectations do you hold yourself to and how will you know you’ve succeeded in meeting them? This question might elicit a list of goals you are working toward or status symbols you are working to achieve. Many of us have high expectations of ourselves and work hard to meet expectations of ourselves and work really hard to meet those expectations. In the United States, we have become a society of achievement oriented people often driven by our desire to be the best and to prove ourselves. Many of us gain a sense of purpose and self-worth from our achievements. We work long hours to attain tangible proof of our value in the world. We tell ourselves, “If I can just get that job, or that promotion, or that house or car, or body, then I will be happy. Then I can slow down and enjoy my life.” But, what happens when we reach these goals and what happens when we don’t?

We all like to say we don’t expect perfection, but it is the thing many of us strive for anyway. The dictionary definition of perfection is “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” As we begin to expect perfection from ourselves, we continuously set ourselves up for increased anxiety followed by disappointment and a diminished sense of self-worth. No one can achieve perfection, because as humans, not a single one of us is perfect.

According to the American Psychological Association, rates of perfectionism in the United States have increased dramatically since the 1980s. A study conducted among English-speaking cultures such as Canada, America, and the UK, Curran and Hill found that the proportion of people who showed perfectionist traits had risen 33% from 1989 to 2016. Another study conducted by Kathleen Kawamura looked at cultural differences in perfectionism. She found that Asian-American students exhibited significantly higher rates of perfectionistic traits than their Caucasian-American counterparts. Culture plays an important role in the way we view ourselves and the expectations we hold ourselves to. This study found that parents who came from Asian cultures had higher achievement based expectations of their children, which was carried over into the children’s expectations of perfection in themselves, especially as it related to academic achievement. While this is only one example, I believe it’s important for us to stop to think about the ways in which our environment, society, parents, or teachers impact the way we treat ourselves. Did you grow up feeling that there were high expectations placed on you to achieve or behave in a certain way?    

Working as a therapist, and from personal experience, I have seen the way perfectionism impacts one’s mental health. Perfectionism is tied to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. We work so hard to achieve our goals and meet our expectations. When all of that work finally pays off, we rarely take the time to appreciate it before looking ahead to the next accomplishment. We often punish and berate ourselves for the mistakes we inevitably make along the way and feel a sense of disappointment or depression when we don’t meet our unrealistic expectations. This cycle is made worse by the messages we receive from the outside world. We are surrounded by highly curated images of other people’s lives, filled with career success, expensive homes, and elaborate vacations. We don’t get to see the way others struggle, so we feel defeated when we struggle. This only pushes us to keep striving for the perfection we perceive in others. 

The trap of perfectionism in our achievement oriented society, leaves us feeling generally unfulfilled, dissatisfied, and exhausted. We never feel like we’ve really accomplished anything because we are too focused on our flaws and always looking toward the next thing we have to achieve. I have found myself caught in this trap often. Even in writing this post, I have struggled with getting out of the perfectionist trap. I have written and rewritten this blog post over and over again, trying to make sure it’s “perfect.” Pretty ironic when I’m writing about all the ways perfectionism hurts us. I have high expectations of myself and I have to consciously remind myself that I am not a perfect person and this doesn’t have to be a perfectly written blog. I have had to take a moment to examine my expectations, just as I asked you to do at the beginning. I would like to share some ways I have found helpful in challenging my achievement oriented perfectionist tendencies in hopes they can help you escape the trap.

  • Mindfulness/Meditation
  • Practice self-compassion; take the time to say kind things about yourself or practice self-affirmations
  • Take the time to really celebrate your accomplishments
  • Ask yourself what you would expect of someone you love
  • Try to remind yourself to see yourself the way people who care about you see you
  • Learn something new just for fun
  • Find things you can do that you enjoy just because you enjoy them, not because you have to be good at them or because you’re working toward a goal
  • Give yourself permission to slow down. Have that lazy Sunday!
  • Journal about the things you are grateful for in your life
  • Take a break from looking at the “perfect” lives of others on social media
  • Remember that no one is perfect, not even you

Perfectionism hinders us from truly enjoying our lives. In my opinion, it is our imperfections and our flaws that make us who we are and makes each of us unique. If we were all perfect people, we would likely all be the same. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is the same perfect version of a human. Our flaws are what make us interesting and often help us feel vulnerable and connected with others. I find beauty in your imperfections and I hope you can learn to see that beauty too. 

If you are interested in reading more or working on embracing your imperfections, I would highly recommend The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

Tayler Deamon, LMFT

Primary Therapist

 

Cited Studies:

“Perfectionism Is Increasing Over Time: A Meta-Analysis of Birth Cohort Differences From 1989 to 2016” by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill (https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-bul0000138.pdf)

“Differences in Perfectionism Across Cultures: A study of Asian-American and Caucasian College Students” by Kathleen Y. Kawamura

(https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3470&context=theses)

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