Two programs are offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for people with disabilities. One is Social Security Disability and the other is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To qualify as disabled, a person must not be able to engage in any "substantial gainful activity," because of medical or mental impairments. To qualify for a mental disability, an impairment must limit a person's ability to work. The condition must last or be projected to last for at least 12 months. Mental disabilities are grouped into nine categories.
Organic problems in the brain cause psychological or behavioral abnormalities that produce an abnormal mental condition. Prior functional abilities may be lost. Examples include losing cognitive abilities, such as not understanding place and time, showing memory impairment, substantial mood changes, hallucinations and a 15-point or more I.Q. reduction. The person also must show other conditions, such as the inability to participate in daily activities and social situations or the inability to concentrate.
Autism and developmental conditions can cause social interaction problems. The person often demonstrates select repetitive activities and typically has problems with verbal and non-verbal communications. These traits restrict normal daily activities and social interaction.
A person presents personality traits that are maladaptive or inflexible, which interfere with social or occupational situations. Traits can include autistic thinking, hostility, suspicion, mood issues, passiveness or aggression or unstable relationships. These traits make it difficult to perform normal activities or participate in social settings.
A person is considered mentally retarded when the person has low intellectual ability. The condition must be present prior to the age of 22. A mentally retarded person may not be capable of taking care of his own needs, such as eating or dressing himself. The person may not be able to understand simple instructions and may have limited verbal skills depending on the severity level. The person may be unable to perform daily activities.
Conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorders may cause intense anxiety as a person attempts to overcome the symptoms. Examples include persistent apprehension, tension, irrational fear, panic attacks, and sudden fear or terror. Other traits include recurring obsessions and compulsions. These behaviors can limit normal activities and social interaction.
These conditions do not appear to have an organic or physiological cause. Typically the condition includes physical symptoms lasting for several years, resulting in frequent medication use. The traits may include vision, speech or hearing disturbances as well as changes in coordination and sensations. The person may display traits of preoccupation with having an injury or disease. This condition may seriously disrupt daily activities and social interaction.
An affective condition is typically seen as intense mood changes that include manic or depressive behavior. Examples of this condition's depressive traits include intense loss of interest in activities for long periods of time, sleep issues, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, hallucinations, paranoia or suicidal thoughts. Examples of the manic traits include hyperactivity, inflated self-esteem, reduced need for sleep or distractibility. These traits can make it difficult to be involved in normal activity or function in society.
Some addictive substances cause physical problems such as liver and pancreatic damage or seizures. Addictive substances can also cause mental disorders outlined in other sections.
Conditions such as schizophrenic and paranoia are examples of this condition. The person may present with hallucinations, delusions or catatonic behavior. The person may be incoherent or not logical, isolated and have restricted activities. Typically, the person will have exhibited these and other traits for one year or more.