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How can I get Long-Term Disability Benefits for Depression & Anxiety?

By Matt Lalande in Depression, Long-Term Disability on August 17, 2023

How can I get Long-Term Disability Benefits for Depression & Anxiety?

Getting Long-Term Disability Benefits for Depression & Anxiety

In our experience as disability lawyers, depression and anxiety are not merely fleeting emotions but serious mental health disorders that can profoundly disrupt a person’s life. The perpetual feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and overwhelming worry characteristic of these conditions can be completely debilitating. Simple tasks may become insurmountable, and activities once enjoyed might lose all appeal. The isolating nature of depression and anxiety can strain relationships with friends and family, and even affect professional life, leading to a downward spiral that is incredibly challenging to reverse.

Treatment requires concerted effort and professional help, but even with support, the road to recovery can be long and arduous, forever changing the lives of those affected.

In this article we write about depression and anxiety, how they can interfere with work and how to get long-term disability benefits for these life-altering chronic conditions.

Remember – if you’ve been denied long-term disability benefits, call us today. Our Hamilton Long-Term Disability Lawyers have recovered millions for disability claimants throughout all of Ontario since 2003. Call us today no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local throughout Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can send us a message through our website and our intake specialist will get right back to you.

What is Major Depressive Disorder? (MDD)

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), or clinical depression, is a condition detailed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) but is much more than a medical term. It represents a deeply personal and often hidden struggle that many individuals face. Major Depression can engulf a person’s life, leaving them feeling isolated and trapped in a relentless cycle of sadness, despair, and loss of enjoyment in once-cherished activities. The distinction between clinical depression and the general feeling of being “depressed” is vast, as the former is a chronic and debilitating condition that requires professional intervention.

What are some Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder?

Some of the major symptoms of major depressive disorder are:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Significant weight loss or gain, or changes in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

At least five of these symptoms must be present during the same two-week period to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.

The Difference Between Clinical Depression & Major Depression

Clinical depression and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) are terms that are often used interchangeably, and in most contexts, they refer to the same mental health condition. Both describe a mental disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities, and various other symptoms that interfere with daily life.

The term “Major Depressive Disorder” is the formal diagnostic label used in the mental health profession, particularly as defined in diagnostic manuals like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It has specific diagnostic criteria that must be met for a diagnosis.

“Clinical depression,” on the other hand, is a more general day to day term that is often used in both clinical settings and by the general public. It refers to the same condition but without necessarily invoking the specific diagnostic criteria of the DSM.

In essence, while there might be slight variations in connotation and context between the two terms, they both describe a serious and debilitating mood disorder that requires professional treatment. The choice of term may depend on the context and audience, with “Major Depressive Disorder” typically used in more formal or clinical settings, and “clinical depression” used more broadly.

What Causes Clinical Depression?

The causes of clinical depression can be caused by many facets of life, which can such things as:

  • Genetic Factors: A family history of depression may increase the risk, indicating a genetic link.
  • Biochemical Imbalances: Altered levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine play a role in mood regulation, and imbalances may contribute to depression.
  • Environmental Triggers: Stressful life events, trauma, and chronic stress can initiate or exacerbate depression.
  • Psychological Factors: Personality traits, coping strategies, and cognitive factors may make some individuals more vulnerable to depression.
  • Medical Conditions: Chronic illnesses, hormonal imbalances, and certain medications can lead to or worsen depression.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Poverty, social isolation, and lack of support can also contribute to the onset of clinical depression.

How can Depression Interfere with Work?

Someone that experiences depression or anxiety just simply can’t turn off their symptoms when they get to work every morning. Symptoms of depression are never-ending and accompany you wherever you go – and in that respect, there’s no doubt that depressed employees are vulnerable to adverse work outcomes. 

Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function both at work and home – some of which include:

Here’s how:

  1. Loss of Interest and Motivation: A hallmark symptom of major depression is a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, which can extend to work tasks. This lack of motivation can lead to procrastination, difficulties in starting or completing projects, and an overall decline in productivity.
  2. Fatigue and Lack of Energy: Constant feelings of fatigue can make even simple tasks seem overwhelming. This exhaustion can slow down the work pace, reduce efficiency, and lead to mistakes.
  3. Difficulty Concentrating and Making Decisions: major depression can affect cognitive functions, making it hard to concentrate, process information, and make decisions. This can lead to difficulties in problem-solving, planning, and executing tasks, all of which are essential in most work environments.
  4. Changes in Sleep Patterns: Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) can disrupt a healthy work-life balance. Lack of sleep may lead to irritability, further difficulties in concentration, and impaired judgment, while oversleeping may lead to tardiness or absenteeism.
  5. Emotional Challenges: Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability may affect interpersonal relationships at work. Colleagues and supervisors may find it challenging to communicate with or understand a person suffering from major depression, leading to potential conflicts or misunderstandings.
  6. Physical Symptoms: Changes in appetite and weight, along with other physical symptoms like headaches or digestive problems, can further affect overall well-being and ability to perform at work.
  7. Thoughts of Death or Suicide: In severe cases, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide can become all-consuming, making it nearly impossible to focus on work or maintain a sense of purpose in professional life.
  8. Overall Performance Decline: The cumulative effect of these symptoms can lead to a noticeable decline in overall work performance, including missed deadlines, increased errors, frequent absences, or withdrawal from work responsibilities.
  9. Social Withdrawal: Depression often leads to a tendency to withdraw from social interactions, which can have implications in teamwork, collaboration, and networking within a professional setting.

What is an Anxiety Disorder? Is it the same as Depression?

Similarly, anxiety disorders are debilitating conditions which can interfere with a person’s overall life, function – and more importantly, a person’s ability to work. Anxiety is similar but a completely different mental health diagnosis from depression. Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions which are normally characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, and nervousness that interfere with daily activities.

These feelings often occur without a clear reason and may be intense, making regular tasks challenging to complete. Anxiety disorders encompass various specific types, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), and Panic Disorder, each with unique symptoms and triggers. Unlike normal feelings of anxiety that everyone experiences at times, anxiety disorders can lead to significant distress and dysfunction, requiring professional treatment like therapy or medication to manage effectively. Lastly, anxiety disorders may be associated with severe, long-term depression, eating
disorders, and increased hospitalization, comorbid dependency disorders with alcohol or drugs and increased suicide rates. The following are some of the more common types of anxiety disorders seen by our Long-Term Disability Lawyers:

General Anxiety Disorder: is a chronic mental health condition characterized by persistent and excessive anxiety and worry about various aspects of daily life, such as work, health, family, or finances, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. The anxiety is often difficult to control and may be out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the feared event.

The worry normally lasts at least six months; a person almost always anticipates the worst, even though there is little reason to expect it. GAD is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as fatigue,
trembling, muscle tension, headache, nausea or Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ).

People with GAD may find it hard to stop worrying about different topics and their worries may shift from one concern to another. The continuous worry can interfere with daily functioning, leading to physical symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: often beginning in childhood, OCD is characterized by repeated,
intrusive and unwanted thoughts that seem impossible to control, linked to ritualized behavior. The compulsive behaviors can include actions like handwashing, checking things repeatedly, or mental acts like counting. These rituals can be time-consuming and interfere significantly with daily functioning and relationships.The essential features are recurrent obsessions or compulsions that are time-consuming (more than one hour per day), or that cause marked distress.

Panic Disorder: is a disorder which causes a person to suffer panic attacks or sudden helpless feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning: chest pain, heart palpitations, breathing difficulty, dizziness, generalized body discomfort, feelings of unreality and fear of dying. Panic attacks can be caused by medical conditions like hyperthyroidism and cardiac conditions. Substance abuse (intoxication
with stimulants such as caffeine, cocaine or amphetamines) or withdrawal from depressants like alcohol
can also induce panic attacks. One of the most troubling aspects of Panic Disorder is that sufferers may
have a continuing fear that they will have a panic attack, thus causing them to avoid situations which are perceived to cause the attacks. This can lead to agoraphobia, a fear of going into places that might cause panic attacks.

PTSD: is a very serious anxiety disorder is caused by experiencing one or extremely traumatic cumulatives incident such as first responder situations or a serious life-changing car accident. PTSD also may
occur when a person has been “in association with an interpersonal stressor” over a period of time. (DSM-IV-TR) Those who may develop posttraumatic stress disorder include survivors of rape, domestic abuse, childhood sexual or physical abuse.

PTSD symptoms include persistent anxiety, rage, excessive aggression, depression, emotional numbing (“blunting” or denial of feelings), risky behavior, hypervigilance, self-mutilation, feeling “out of body,” “magical thinking,” short or long-term memory loss, panic attacks, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, and eating or elimination disorders. PTSD may co-occur with substance abuse, anxiety disorders, depression or dysthymia. The symptoms of PTSD may be mistaken for other disorders: panic attacks, visual hallucinations (Schizophrenia), compulsive behaviors, regression (Dissociative Identity Disorder), lack of concentration (Attention Deficit Disorder), or “sexualized” or suicidal behaviors (Borderline Personality Disorder).

Social Anxiety Disorder: People with social phobia have an intense, chronic fear of being watched
and judged by others, and of being humiliated by their own actions. They often worry for days or weeks in advance of a dreaded situation. Physical symptoms include blushing, profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. The disorder typically begins in childhood or early adolescence. The typical age of onset is 13 years old. Social phobia occurs in women twice as often as in men, although from what we have seen as long-term disability lawyers, more men seek help for this disorder.

How can Anxiety Disorders Interfere with work?

Serious anxiety disorders can profoundly disrupt an individual’s ability to work

Serious anxiety disorders can have a seriously negative effects on a person’s ability to work by impacting cognitive function, physical health, social interaction, and overall mental well-being. These symptoms can reduce job performance, lead to increased absenteeism, and may result in the need for long-term disability benefits if the condition cannot be effectively managed. For example, anxiety can affect a person’s ability to work in such ways as:

  1. Cognitive Impairment: severe anxiety disorders can cause cognitive impairments such as poor concentration, difficulty in decision-making, and memory problems. In a work setting, this can lead to reduced productivity, increased errors, and difficulty in managing tasks that require sustained attention and focus. A person may find it challenging to complete assignments on time or maintain the quality of work expected.
  2. Physical Symptoms: anxiety disorders often manifest with physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, and digestive problems. These physical ailments can make it challenging for the individual to perform their job effectively, particularly if it requires physical exertion. Chronic physical discomfort may also lead to increased absenteeism.
  3. Social Interaction: many jobs require interaction with colleagues, clients, or the public. Social anxiety disorders can cause excessive fear and discomfort in social situations, which can seriously effect communication and collaboration. This can be particularly detrimental in jobs that rely heavily on teamwork or customer interaction.
  4. Avoidance Behaviors: anxiety disorders can lead to avoidance behaviors, where an individual might avoid certain situations or tasks that trigger anxiety. This avoidance can limit their ability to perform essential job functions and might even lead to a refusal to go to the workplace at all.
  5. Performance Anxiety: severe anxiety can cause serious worry about one’s performance, leading to a fear of failure or judgment by other people or co-workers. This performance anxiety can create a self-fulfilling prophecy where the fear of failure leads to actual failure or underperformance.
  6. Impact on Mental Well-being: over time, the chronic nature of anxiety disorders can wear down an individual’s mental resilience. This can lead to other mental health issues like depression, further exacerbating the impact on occupational functioning.

How can I get Long-Term Disability Benefits for Depression & Anxiety?

There is a good chance that you can be approved for long-term disability benefits if you suffer from serious life-changing anxiety and depression if the conditions prevent you from doing the substantial duties of your own job.

Long-term disability benefits are benefits to assist premium paying clients during a period of need. They are designed to replace the income of a sick or injured individual who is not able to perform that substantial duties of his or her own job.

Normally the benefits are payable in this instance for no more than 2 years.

After 2 years, most long-term disability benefit policies provide for a change in definition – meaning that while for the first two years one must be unable to perform the substantial duties of his or her own job, after two years the person must be completely unemployable for any job in which he or she is suitable by way of their education, training or experience. The change at the two year junction is what is often referred to as a “change in definition” in the policy.

Many individuals which our long-term disability lawyers help with often suffer such debilitating depression that they become completely unemployable in any capacity – and ironically – despite treatment – the symptoms of many client we assist seem to worsen with age. Although depression and anxiety could debilitate a person at any age, many of our client seems to face demons when their children are at the cusp of independence and no longer need their parents as much – leaving more time for the busy parent to reflect and assess life. Other reasons are that adults in their middle years often begin to face chronic health conditions, loss of loved ones, social isolation – all of which can contribute to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Changes in lifestyle, such as becoming empty nesters can lead to loss of purpose for some. There are many social challenges associated with aging into midlife which can lead to an increase in depressive symptoms, although aging itself does not directly cause depression.

In summary – if you can prove through cogent medical evidence that you can longer sustain the substantial duties of your own occupation for the first two years after the onset of your disability, you will be entitled to access long-term disability benefits.

Applying for Long-Term Disability for Depression & Anxiety

Applying for long-term disability benefits in Canada involves a multi-step process that requires careful attention to the specific requirements of your own policy:

  1. Elimination Period: Before applying for long-term disability benefits, you must typically get through an elimination or waiting period. This is a pre-determined amount of time, usually between 90 to 120 days, during which you must be continuously disabled. The elimination period acts as a threshold to ensure that the disability is indeed long-term. During this time, claimants might be eligible for short-term disability benefits or Employment Insurance sickness benefits.
  2. How to apply: If you are part of a group health plan through your employer, you need to apply for long-term disability through your benefits administrator. They will provide the necessary forms and guide you through the process. If you purchased an individual policy, you would need to apply directly to your disability insurer. In this case, you should contact the insurer directly and request the necessary forms and instructions.
  3. Medical Evidence:as part of the application process, you will need to submit an attending physician statement. This document is completed by your treating doctor and contains detailed information about your medical condition, treatment plan, and the nature and extent of your disability. It is crucial evidence that helps the insurer evaluate your claim. Depending on the insurer’s requirements, you may also need to submit other medical records, such as your GP’s clinical records, hospital records, diagnostic reports, lab results and specialist records.
  4. Additional Requirements: Individual disability insurers may have specific requirements based on the policy and the nature of the disability. These might include:
  • Functional Capacity Evaluations: Assessments to determine your physical and mental abilities related to your occupation.
  • Ongoing Communication and Updates: Regular communication with the insurer, providing updates on your condition, treatment, and any attempts to return to work.
  • Information about Other Benefits: Most insurers will require information regarding any other income benefit which you are receiving, such as such as Canada Pension Plan (CPP) disability benefits or Workers’ Compensation.

Applying for long-term disability benefits in Canada requires careful navigation through the elimination period, understanding the application process depending on whether you are part of a group health plan or have an individual policy, gathering and submitting thorough medical evidence, and adhering to any specific requirements laid out by the disability insurer. It may be wise to consult with one of our Hamilton long-term disability lawyers to ensure all steps are correctly followed, as the process can be complex and varies between insurers and policies.

Denied Long-Term Disability Benefits for Depression & Anxiety? Call our Hamilton Disability Lawyers today. We serve ALL of Ontario.

It is NOT the end of the road. If you’ve been denied long-term disability for depression & anxiety it’s vital that you contact our long-term disability lawyers to discuss your situation. More often that not, disability adjusters fail to properly adjudicate claims in a meaningful and helpful way – especially at the 2 year mark. Remember – you have rights.

We represent disability claimants all over Ontario – and our disability lawyers can help you get the compensation deserve you you. Our consultations are 100% free – and if you decide to work with our Hamilton disability lawyers, the fee is free. We do not charge our clients anything unless we win their case. We are happy to provide you the legal advice you need in order for you to make an informed decision about your own particular situation. Call us no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Southern Ontario region at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can send us a confidential email through our website – and we would be happy to explain your long-term disability rights and legal options to you, at no cost.

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