Does disability insurance cover mental health issues?


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Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lives with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And as of 2020, about 14.2 million U.S. adults are living with a serious mental illness, defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that results in serious functional impairment.

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If you have a mental health problem, it can prevent you from working. And if that’s the case, can you rely on disability insurance to cover your lost income? You can – here’s what you need to know.

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Mental health issues that are covered by disability insurance

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

  • anxiety disorder
  • anorexia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • autism
  • Bipolar disorder
  • depression
  • Addiction to drugs
  • dysthymia
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Organic mental disorders
  • Panic attack
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Somatoform disorders
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Schizophrenia

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

“There really isn’t a set list of mental health issues that can be covered by disability insurance,” said Colin Nabitty, CEO and co-founder of Breeze, an online provider of disability and critical illness insurance. “Instead, it’s more about whether the problem affects your ability to work and earn a wage.” It could be anything from depression, anxiety, mood disorders or panic attacks.

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Not only is it possible to qualify for disability insurance because of a mental health problem, it’s also quite common.

“According to LIMRA, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are the fifth most common cause of long-term disability insurance claims and the fourth most common cause of short-term disability claims,” ​​said Nabiti. “Disability insurance is very often used to help protect your finances against mental health issues.”

How to claim disability benefits based on a mental health problem

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

“You’ll probably need to show a medical diagnosis from a professional,” Nabiti said. “If you have mental health issues and it’s affecting your ability to work and it’s been diagnosed by a doctor, it’s likely to be covered by disability insurance pending other factors.”

Insurance providers recognize that mental health problems can be just as debilitating as an illness or injury, so it’s not harder to make a claim just because the problem can’t be detected with the naked eye.

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“Insureds and carriers are taking the necessary steps to ensure that mental health issues are covered by disability insurance,” Nabiti said.

How disability insurance protects your income in the event of a mental health problem

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

“In the event that you are unable to work due to a qualifying mental health problem, 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 up to retirement age,” said Nabiti. “This benefit money can be used for everything from mortgage payments and credit cards to baby formula and groceries. So if you suffer from a qualifying mental health problem 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 the retirement nest you were building for the future.”

“Disability insurance can offer an excellent financial safety net if injury, illness or mental health issues prevent you from working,” he continued. “Mental health issues are on the rise in the US and most employees are not offered paid time off, so having disability insurance can really offer peace of mind that your finances will remain intact if you need time away from work to care about what matters most.”

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About the author

Gabriel joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with him a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Prior to joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” ​​as a celebrity news expert.

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