Does Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Qualify Me for Disability?

Published on: July 30, 2019

OCD and Disability

If you or a loved one suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, you are all too familiar with the extremes of anxiety—obsessions and compulsions that can take up hours of the day and cause serious distress. And while many movies and television shows play OCD for laughs, you know it’s no joke, whether it’s the double and triple-checking of a locked door, or the growing expense of purchasing excessive amounts of soap or hand sanitizer. Most OCD behaviors are visible, but not all; some behaviors are carried out mentally, such as counting or praying.

Those affected with OCD usually recognize that their behavior is irrational, but simply cannot relieve their discomfort without performing compulsions. Unfortunately, performing them reinforces the obsession, creating a worsening, never-ending cycle that can interfere with everyday life. If you find that you or your loved one’s symptoms extremely hinder or interfere with your ability to work, you may qualify for benefits, so long as the condition meets the requirements.

Is OCD That Same as OCPD?

Despite the similarity of their names, it’s important not to confuse OCD with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). OCPD involves a preoccupation with orderliness and perfectionism; a person with OCPD may spend hours per day cleaning their home or organizing cupboards and closets. While this can affect their relationships or bother others, the OCPD individual likes their behavior and is not at all anxious about it. On the other hand, people with OCD do not like their behavior or their overwhelming fears. 

OCD In the United States

OCD equally affects men, women, and children of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Approximately 1 in 40 American adults and 1 in 100 American children suffer from OCD, which is ranked in the top 10 of the most disabling illnesses due to lost income and decreased quality of life, according to the World Health Organization. For example, a person with OCD that’s obsessed with germs may find themselves so concerned about becoming contaminated that they’re unable to go to work some days.

Is There a Cure for OCD?

Is There a Cure for OCD?

While there is no “cure,” the good news is that, much like someone with asthma or diabetes, people with OCD can manage their symptoms. Through treatment, old neurological pathways are weakened and new ones are strengthened, allowing the brain to function more normally. Some popular treatment options include:

  • Behavior Therapy. Patients are exposed to the things they fear to lessen anxiety over time.
  • Cognitive Therapy. This method addresses the thought processes behind the fear and helps patients realize their behavior is not likely to lower the chances of something bad happening.
  • Medication Therapy. Certain psychiatric medications can help control the obsessions and compulsions of OCD. Most commonly, antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil are tried first to raise serotonin levels in the body. 

This does raise the question, if the condition is manageable, can you really receive Social Security Disability benefits?

Applying for Disability with OCD

Usually, to apply for Social Security Disability benefits you must have medical evidence. However, no laboratory test exists that can identify OCD. Instead, mental health professionals will need to use diagnostic interviews to determine the presence of OCD as well as other tools that measure the severity of obsessions and compulsions, the most common of which is the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS). These interviews will be used to show that you suffer from obsessions or compulsions, not caused by medical illness or drug use, that create major distress or interfere with everyday life. Examples of different types of obsessions and compulsions include:

  • Checking and rechecking actions (such as turning out the lights and locking the door)
  • Excessive counting
  • Excessive fear of germs
  • The compulsion to repeatedly wash your hands to ward off infection

Whereas some diseases can lead to other complications that qualify for disability benefits, OCD does not, other than perhaps damaged skin from compulsive hand washing.

How You Qualify for Disability with OCD

Anxiety-related disorders, as defined in the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book, are “disorders [where] anxiety is either the predominant disturbance or it is experienced if the individual attempts to master symptoms; for example, confronting the dreaded object or situation in a phobic disorder or compulsions in obsessive compulsive disorders.” To qualify for benefits for OCD, you must meet the requirements of either A and B or A and C below.

A. Medically documented findings of at least one of the following:

  • Motor tension
  • Autonomic hyperactivity
  • Apprehensive expectation
  • Vigilance and scanning
  • A persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation which results in a compelling desire to avoid the specific object, activity, or situation OR
  • Recurrent severe panic attacks manifested by a sudden unpredictable onset of intense apprehension, fear, terror, and a sense of impending doom occurring on the average of at least once a week; OR
  • Recurrent obsessions or compulsions which are a source of marked distress; on the average of once a week, OR
  • Recurrent and intrusive recollections of a traumatic experience, which are a source of marked distress

B. Medically documented findings of at least two of the following:

  • Marked restriction of activities of daily living
  • Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning
  • Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or page
  • Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration

C. Medically documented findings of a complete inability to function independently outside of one's home.

If you or your loved one suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or have previously applied for benefits and have been denied, contact us at Disability Experts of Florida. We are here to assist you with your case so you can get the aid that you need and deserve.

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