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Common Mental Illness Disability Claims

By Matt Lalande in Long-Term Disability on April 29, 2020

Common Mental Illness Disability Claims

5 Minute Read. By Matt Lalande

Can I qualify for long-term disability if I suffer from a mental illness?

Yes, you can absolutely qualify for long term disability if you suffer from a total disability which prevents you from performing the substantial duties of  your job.

It’s important to understand that physical disabilities will not only qualify a person to receive short-term or long-term disability benefits. In fact, most of the disability claims that we litigate are mental health related claims.  Mental health affects many people in Canada, with statistics being as high as 1 in 5 experiencing a mental health disorder in their lives at one point or another. The Canadian Mental Health Association has reported that by the age of 40, about 50% will have suffered from some type of mental disorder.

Many people think that they are not entitled to disability benefits if they suffer from a mental illness when the furthest thing is from the truth. Most of our disability claims are based in severe clinical mental illness that cause people to be unable to sustain the demands of their job. People that suffer from mental illness often have socialability problems, concentration problems, communication difficulties, multi-tasking difficulties, emotional regulation issues – or even more severe issues such as lack of emotions, decreased motivation, halluciations or paranoid delusions which can prevent them from the substantial duties of their regular gainful employment.

What are some common types of mental illness disorders which we see, that cause people to be unable to work?

Depression  – clinical Depression denotes an extensive range of mental health problems characterized by the loss of positive affect (a loss of interest and enjoyment in normal things and experiences), low mood and a range of related emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioral symptoms. There is no specific cause of depression, but researchers have indicated that hormonal changes such as puberty or childbirth, brain chemistry, and genetics are factors that may influence or trigger it.  Severe depression can be incredibly dangerous as it may cause the individual to turn to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Nearly two-thirds of suicide cases are attributed to depression.

Common symptoms of major depression include:

  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Tearfulness
  3. Social withdrawal
  4. Exacerbation of pre-existing pain
  5. Fatigue
  6. Agitation and marked anxiety
  7. Lack of libido
  8. Lack of desire to leave the home
  9. Irregular or reduced sleep (but some people sleep more )
  10. Significant weight loss (some people have increased appetite)
  11. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  12. Irritability or frequent frustration
  13. Concentration or memory issues and other cognitive changes
  14. Constant sadness
  15. Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  16. Lowered self-esteem
  17. Recurrently negative thoughts about oneself, one’s past and the future

Depression can be treated with the use of antidepressant medications as well as psychotherapy when necessary. Generally, depression lasts approximately four to six months if the individuais undergoing treatment and medication, but relapse is incredibly common and some individuals may not recover entirely, throughout their entire life.

Bipolar Disorder – is a long-lasting, highly relapsing mental health disorder that is characterized by recurring occurrences of manic or depressive symptoms, with intervening periods where a person can be nearly symptom-free. The onset of bipolar disorder normally occurs in teenage to early adulthood and are repeated over a person’s lifetime expressed in unpredictable recurrences of depressed and manic states.

Bipolar disorder has 2 predominant types – bipolar I and bipolar II. Symptoms of bipolar disorder I are normally defined by episodes of depression and mania, where bipolar disorder II is characterized by episodes of depression and hypo-mania. The main difference between the 2 bipolar types are characterized be the person’s manic symptoms – full mania causes severe functional impairment, possible symptoms of psychosis, high energy or wiry behavior, feelings of elation, insomnia, increased levels of physical activity, taking on many activities or tasks at once, and reckless or risky behavior. Some more severe manic episodes may also include psychotic symptoms or hallucinations. Conversely hypomania, is not severe enough to cause an overall marked impairment in social or job functioning, or to require hospitalization.

It’s been reported that people with bipolar disorder spend more time in a depressed than manic state, even with treatment. During depressive episodes, the individual experiences some of the symptoms of depression, or many at a time.

Bipolar disorder can be treated with medications, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotics. If the medication is not effective enough on its own, the individual may undergo psychotherapy or electroconvulsive therapy.

Schizophrenia –  Schizophrenia is one of the most critical and frightening of all mental health disorders. It is a multifaceted, chronic mental health disease that is characterized by a collection of symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, and impaired cognitive ability.    Schizophrenia often results in both negative and cognitive symptoms, such as impairments in attention, working memory, or executive function. Some common negative symptoms include decreased social function, lack of emotions, decreased motivation, inability to complete tasks that were once part of a daily routine, neglect to personal hygiene, and loss of cognitive function (such as issues with speaking). Other common symptoms include hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, confusion, and feeling things that were not present before (such as feeling a tingling sensation on the skin).  There is no specific cure for schizophrenia, but there are options available for recovery. These options may include psychotherapy or various medications to control symptoms. However, these recovery options are often time-consuming and can still place limitations on an individual’s ability to work or maintain employment.

Schizo-Affective Disorder – Schizoaffective disorder, like schizophrenia, is a chronic mental health condition. The disability is characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression.  While it is sometimes confused with schizophrenia due to some of the commonly shared symptoms, schizo-affective disorder is classified as a complex combination of mood disorder symptoms and psychotic symptoms.

There are two types of schizo-affective disorder, each classified by the type of symptoms one experiences. Bipolar type schizo-affective disorder generally includes a combination of mania and major depression, while depressive schizo-affective disorder includes mostly symptoms of major depression.

As with schizophrenia, there is no real cure or known cause for schizo-affective disorder. Treatment options are similar to those for schizophrenia, but schizo-affective disorder treatment may also include the use of antidepressants or mood stabilizers.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) –  is a trauma-related disorder experienced by individuals who have been involved in some type of traumatic event. Some symptoms of PTSD include anxiety, depression, terrifying flashbacks, emotional distress, paranoia, intrusive memories, and increased stress.

According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, the number of individuals diagnosed with PTSD over the last 30 years has significantly increased. This is largely due to events such as wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or other crises in which individuals are exposed to significant trauma and stress. It is also largely due to the idea that PTSD has received substantial research over the last few decades and researchers are able to understand more about it.

PTSD is also largely common in individuals who have experienced a traumatic life-changing injury due to a motor vehicle accident, physical altercation, emotional abuse, or other type of accident. Individuals with PTSD may experience intense symptoms that render them unable to perform daily activities, including those required by their occupation.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – It is common for every individual to experience some type of anxiety about a big event, such as the first day at a new job. This type of anxiety generally manifests itself as nervousness or fear and does not generally prevent that individual from living their life. However, sometimes an individual may experience such severe chronic stress and anxiety that it can interfere with his or her daily life and cause intense feelings of paranoia or fear that render that individual incapable of functioning to their full potential. For example, an individual with extreme anxiety may experience agoraphobia and become too fearful to leave their home entirely.  Anxiety that is chronically persistent, difficult to control, characterized primarily by debilitating worry and agitation about nothing in particular or anything at all; and which interferes with day-to-day life may be in fact be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder. Other symptoms of generalized disorder are often also accompanied by restlessness, being easily fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension and disturbed sleep, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, fear, insomnia, and issues with concentration or cognitive function.

Living with generalized anxiety disorder can be a long-term challenge but it is a treatable mental disorder that has the potential for full recovery. Treatments range from lifestyle changes to medications or psychotherapy. However, there are many different types of anxiety disorders and each individual may experience it differently, so different methods may be required.

If I suffer from mental Illness do I qualify for short-term or long-term disability benefits?

Suffering from severe mental illness is often associated with recurrent hospitalizations, the need for long-term community support, poor overall social functioning and low employment rates. Luckily some persons have access to long-term disability benefits through their employers or through individually purchased policies which they can apply for if they are unable to complete the substantial duties of their own employment.

Many Ontario long-term disability policies provide that claimants who suffer from chronic mental health issues can qualify for short or long-term disability benefits if they are unable to do their own job. After 24 months of collecting disability benefits, claimants can be entitled to receive financial protection from their disability carrier until 65, so long as they are unable to complete the duties of any occupation for which they are reasonably suited by way of education, training and experience.  Therefore, if your or your loved one’s mental illness is serious enough, then you may in fact be able to satisfy your insurer that you suffer from a total disability and qualify to receive long-term disability benefits until the age of 65.

If you’ve been wrongfully denied or cut-off your long-term disability benefits, call us today. It’s not the end.

Even if you or a family member has not experienced mental illness directly, it is very likely that you have known someone who has. Severe symptoms, depending on the mental illness, can interfere with functioning in many different ways, including the interruption of social interaction, communicating, cognitive dysfunction, sustaining concentration, responding to change, multi-tasking, responding to change ect – all of which can prevent a person from maintining regular gainful employment. Unfortunately, because mental illness can’t be seen – many disability insurance companies routinely deny claimants that suffer from mental illness, putting them in a position of increased stress and financial strain.

If you or your loved one has been denied or cut-off your long-term disability benefits, please contact our Hamilton long-term disability lawyers serving claimants all over Ontario. We have been practicing disability law for nearly 20 years and we would be happy to help you.  Contact our offices at 905-333-8888 or through our online contact form to book a free, no-obligation consultation.




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