Does Disability Insurance Cover Mental Health Issues?


Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults live with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And as of 2020, there were an estimated 14.2 million U.S. adults living with a serious mental illness, defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment.

If you’re dealing with a mental health issue, it may prevent you from being able to work. And if this is the case, can you rely on disability insurance to cover your lost income? It may — here’s what you need to know.

Mental Health Issues That Are Covered by Disability Insurance

We often think of disability insurance as a means of protecting our income in the case of an unexpected physical ailment, but it does also cover mental health issues in some cases. According to the Social Security Administration’s Disability Benefits Center, the following mental health disorders qualify as disabling conditions:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Anorexia
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Autism
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Drug Addiction
  • Dysthymia
  • Memory Loss
  • Mood Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Organic Mental Disorders
  • Panic Attacks
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Somatoform Disorders
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Many private disability insurance providers also recognize these same illnesses as cause for a claim. However, other mental health issues may qualify you for disability benefits.

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“There’s really no set list of mental health issues that are covered by disability insurance,” said Colin Nabity, CEO and co-founder of Breeze, an online provider of disability and critical illness insurance. “Instead, it’s more about if the issue impacts your ability to work and earn a paycheck. This could be anything — depression, anxiety, mood disorders or panic attacks.”

Not only is it possible to qualify for disability insurance due to a mental health issue, but it is also fairly common.

“According to LIMRA, mental health issues like depression and anxiety are the fifth most common reason for long-term disability insurance claims and the fourth most common reason for short-term disability claims,” Nabity said. “Disability insurance is very often used to help protect your finances against mental health struggles.”

How To Claim Disability Benefits Based on a Mental Health Issue

The qualifications for a mental health disability claim are largely the same as for a physical one.

“You will likely have to show a medical diagnosis from a professional,” Nabity said. “If you’re dealing with a mental health struggle and it’s impacting your ability to work and it’s been medically diagnosed, it’ll likely get covered by disability insurance pending other factors.”

Insurance providers recognize that mental health issues can be just as debilitating as an illness or injury, so it isn’t more difficult to make a claim just because the issue can’t be detected by the naked eye.

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“Policyholders and carriers are taking the necessary steps to ensure mental health issues get covered by disability insurance,” Nabity said.

How Disability Insurance Protects Your Income in the Event of a Mental Health Issue

Given the prevalence of mental illness in the U.S., you may consider acquiring disability insurance to protect your financial well-being if you become unable to work.

“In the event you are unable to work due to a qualifying mental health issue, disability insurance replaces a portion of your regular income — usually up to 60% — for a period of time that can be weeks, months, years or even until retirement age,” Nabity said. “This benefit money can be used anywhere from mortgage and credit card payments to baby formula and groceries. So if you suffer from a qualifying mental health issue and can’t work or earn an income, your disability insurance benefit can be used to pay for things instead of having to turn to credit card debt, personal loans or a retirement nest egg that you’ve been building up for the future.”

“Disability insurance can offer an excellent financial safety net if injury, illness or mental health struggles keep you from work,” he continued. “Mental health issues are on the rise in the U.S. and most employees don’t get offered paid leave, so having disability insurance could really offer peace of mind that your finances will stay intact should you need time away from work to take care of what matters most.”

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