Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects about 1 percent of the population. However, it tends to run in families so someone with a parent or sibling with schizophrenia is more likely to develop the disorder. Symptoms can include hearing and seeing things that other people do not see and hear. They can be paranoid that others are reading their minds or controlling their thoughts or are out to cause them harm. They may isolate themselves from others and can appear well until they begin to talk about their thoughts. A person may have a flat affect, meaning that they do not show facial expressions and tend to talk in a dull, monotonous voice. Concentration and learning skills are generally reduced.
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear when someone is in their late teens to late 30’s with the first sign being auditory or visual hallucinations. It is rare for someone to develop schizophrenia after age 45, but it is possible to have the illness and not be correctly diagnosed until a later age.
Treatment for schizophrenia first involves stabilization on medication. It can take some time to find the correct medication. Some people with schizophrenia have difficulty tolerating the side effects of the medication, which can be quite unpleasant, and will refuse to take medication. Medication can help control many of the symptoms of schizophrenia, but it is not a cure. Therapy is used to help someone cope with their symptoms and often a person can lead a productive life when they live in an environment with support.
Qualifying for Disability due to Schizophrenia
To qualify for Social Security disability payments based solely on a diagnosis of schizophrenia, the person must have a well documented diagnosis of schizophrenia (not schizoaffective disorder). The symptoms must be ongoing and cause marked difficulty in at least two areas of functioning, such as the ability to get along with others or taking care of personal needs like bathing and dressing. People with schizophrenia can also qualify if they have frequent hospitalizations or can demonstrate an inability to live outside a strictly controlled living environment.
It is very important that someone with schizophrenia is in treatment and taking the proper medication. It is not unusual for someone with a severe mental illness to have abused alcohol and drugs. Due to the restrictions regarding payment of a claim when someone is abuse drugs and/or alcohol, all substance abuse needs to be treated to help prove that the abuse is not causing a worsening of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Disability benefits for schizophrenia, when awarded, usually include a requirement that the person have a representative payee help them manage the payments, especially if there is a history of substance abuse.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and want to talk about claim for Social Security benefits, please call Lunn & Forro at 888-966-6566 or by using the contact form to the right.