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I have a bad temper. Does the SSA consider this a disability?

A claimant recently posed the question of whether or not a bad temper was a disability according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Before immediately answering no and dismissing the question, it is important to look at a bad temper as a potential symptom of a bigger issue, such as a mental health disorder.

Many individuals have severe mental health disorders which are never diagnosed but significantly impair their ability to complete daily tasks, maintain social relationships, concentrate or perform substantial work. Maybe these claimants find that they are repetitively fired from multiple jobs and have difficulty maintaining working relationships with others but they are never quite sure why.

Mental Health Disorders and Social Security Disability Benefits

There are a wide range of mental disorders which are so severe that the Social Security Administration either automatically considers disabling or the SSA assumes they do not leave the claimant with enough residual functional capacity to work. Common mental health disorders include:

• Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders can include anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias.

The SSA will evaluate whether or not the claimant has “motor tension, autonomic hyperactivity, apprehensive expectations, a persistent irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation which results in a compelling desire to avoid the dreaded object, activity, or situation, or recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror and sense of impending doom occurring on the average of at least once a week.”

• Mood disorders

Mood disorders, also called affective disorders, generally cause the claimant to feel extended periods of sadness or hopelessness or periods of extreme happiness. If the claimant’s feelings alternate between the two extremes, they could be considered bipolar. The most common types of mood disorders include depression, mania and bipolar disorder.

What is the SSA looking for if you have a mood disorder? If you are depressed they are looking for severe changes in appetite, anhedonia, sleep difficulties, agitation, decreased energy, feeling of guilty or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating or suicidal thoughts. If you are manic they are looking for hyperactivity, pressure of speech, flight of ideas, decreased need for sleep, inflated self-esteem, hallucinations or paranoid thinking.

• Schizophrenic, paranoid and other psychotic disorders

These disorders, according to the SSA, are characterized by psychotic features such as delusions or hallucinations, catatonic or other grossly disorganized behavior, incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, or poverty of content of speech. The SSA will also evaluate if the claimant has marked restriction of activities of daily living, difficulties in maintaining social functioning, maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, or repeated episodes of decompensation for an extended duration.

What does this mean for the claimant I mentioned above? It means that if the claimant has anger that is not "justifiable" anger and his bitterness and rage is unhealthy or is expressed to a degree that it interferes with his concentration, social functioning or daily living, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional.