Disability for Avoidant Personality Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. Would having avoidant personality disorder qualify me for disability or SSI in Pennsylvania? Depression and anxiety have kept me from working, led to me dropping out of college. My parents support me at the moment, but they don’t make much and feel horrible for being such a burden on them. One of my last hopes is to receive some sort of financial aid from the government. It brings me to tears to even think about telling anybody about my problems, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to even pursue this with out some sort of reassurance that it is possible.

A. There is a possibility that you might receive disability for avoidant personality disorder, depression and anxiety but it may be difficult. Whether an individual is granted disability can depend on many factors including the severity of the disability, level of disability documentation (i.e. had to have been treated by at least one doctor who can provide convincing documentation of your illness severity and history), number of years in the work force, income level, current bank account savings, and so forth.

As for Pennsylvania specifically, it has been my experience that among those who file for disability only a small minority are granted it on their first try. This is not the case with everyone. There are certainly individual cases where first time applicants have been successful in getting their disability claims approved. But generally speaking, the New York Times reports in a December 12, 2007 article that nearly two-thirds of individuals are turned down the first time they apply. The article also states that two-thirds of those who appeal their first rejection eventually go on to win their cases.

The reality is that no one can predict who might be approved for disability and who might not be. Let’s look at two recent cases that I am familiar with. The cases involve one male who was suffering from back and left knee pain due to injuries and subsequent surgeries and a female who suffered from severe schizophrenia and unregulated diabetes type II, among other major medical problems. Both individuals were disabled but the case of the female seemed much more severe. The male had missed work due to the back and knee pain and surgery and was legitimately suffering from pain associated with these injuries. His pain was so bad that he could no longer perform his job. The female client had a 25 year history of severe psychosis and had been in the hospital at least 30 times because of these episodes. In fact, when she applied for disability, she had just been released from another six week psychiatric hospitalization, one in which she was catatonic for the majority of the hospital stay. Ultimately, the female client was turned down for disability and the male client was not.

If the disability system were fair, neither would have been turned down. Both had disabilities that hindered their ability to return to work. But it was truly perplexing and troubling that the client with a long, documented, extremely severe history of schizophrenia and diabetes was rejected. She later appealed the decision and was eventually granted disability but only after she hired an attorney to fight on her behalf.

In short, it is possible to be granted disability and it is worth trying but there seems to be no sure way to know or predict if your case is going to be” strong enough” to persuade the state officials to grant you disability. As I mentioned before, it can depend on a number of factors.

I would also recommend, if you have not already, that you consider finding professional help for your issues. I know that suffering from avoidant personality disorder probably makes it extremely uncomfortable for you to seek help or share your symptoms and experiences with a therapist but sheltering yourself away from society may only serve to increase the severity of the personality disorder as well as your depression and anxiety. Getting disability may supply you with money that might help ease the financial burden you feel you have placed on your parents, but to your detriment it also allows you to further isolate yourself. I would strongly recommend that in addition to seeking disability you seek help from mental health professionals. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jun 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). Disability for Avoidant Personality Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/06/23/disability-for-avoidant-personality-disorder/