Mental disorders are sometimes overlooked as disabilities, but some mental health issues can disrupt a person’s ability to take care of themselves and go to work on a daily basis. People who have schizophrenia often have a list of symptoms that make it difficult to impossible to do many types of work. Anyone who is struggling with schizophrenia or has a loved one or dependent who can’t function properly because of the condition should know about the symptoms, treatment options, and disability benefits that they might be qualified for so that they can continue to pay their bills.
What Is Schizophrenia?
People with schizophrenia interpret reality differently than other people. This condition can be disabling as it can interfere with a person’s ability to organize thoughts. It’s also a condition that makes it difficult for the person to function because people with schizophrenia often experience delusions and hallucinations.
No one knows for sure why some people get schizophrenia, but more than likely, it’s a combination of genetics, brain chemistry, and environmental factors. Some neurotransmitters, such as glutamine and dopamine, might be partially to blame for this mental condition.
There are some risk factors for developing schizophrenia, such as a family history. Taking mind-altering drugs, such as psychoactive and psychotropic ones, while the brain is developing in adolescence also puts people at an increased risk. Finally, being born under a pregnancy with some types of birth complications, including exposure to certain toxins, malnutrition, and viruses, can increase the risk of schizophrenia later in life because they can affect brain development.
It’s most common for the onset of schizophrenia in men to be around late adolescence to mid-20s. In women, it’s most common for onset to be in the mid to late 20s. Children cannot be diagnosed with schizophrenia, and it’s rare for onset of schizophrenia to be after 45 years of age.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
The exact symptoms that people exhibit can vary from one person to the next, but there are several common symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech and thoughts.
Delusions are beliefs that aren’t based on reality. Most delusions are broken down into one of two groups: delusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution. Someone who is having delusions of grandeur might believe that they have unlimited power, exceptional ability, or lots of fame. A delusion of persecution might involve a belief in the police following the person or some other powerful organization keeping tabs on them.
When someone has hallucinations, they might see or hear things that don’t exist. Auditory hallucinations are the most common, but hallucinations that involve any of the senses, including smell, taste, and touch, are possible.
When someone exhibits disorganized speech, they often give answers to questions that aren’t entirely related or are completely unrelated to the question that was asked. The overall logic of the response is often difficult to follow, and a small percentage of people with schizophrenia will even put together completely meaningless strings of words, which is referred to as word salad.
Disorganized and abnormal motor behavior is also a possibility. For instance, some people will have unpredictable agitation or childlike silliness. They might also exhibit inappropriate posture, excessive movement, or a complete lack of response.
There are also negative symptoms. These are often the absence of normal skills, such as hygiene and taking care of oneself. There might be times when the person appears to lack emotion and might speak in a monotone voice, not have facial expressions, or not make eye contact.
Treatment for Schizophrenia
There isn’t a cure for schizophrenia, but there are some treatments that can control some of the symptoms. While schizophrenic symptoms can subside for periods of time, anyone with schizophrenia will require lifelong treatment.
Medications are one of the primary forms of treatment, and antipsychotics are one of the most common types. This type of drug is thought to control the symptoms by affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine. A variety of different doses and exact types of antipsychotics might be used, with the goal of controlling symptoms with the lowest dose possible. Doctors might also prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
Within the category of antipsychotic drugs, there are first-generation antipsychotics and second-generation antipsychotics. Many of the side effects of first-generation antipsychotics were severe enough that people with schizophrenia often didn’t want to take them. Some of these symptoms included movement disorders and other neurological disorders. Second-generation antipsychotics usually pose a lower risk of serious side effects. There are also injectable antipsychotics that are given as an intramuscular, subcutaneous injection.
Some psychosocial interventions are also given. For instance, the patient might be given therapy, including individual therapy, social skills training, vocational training, and family therapy.
In times of extreme crisis, some people might be hospitalized for their own safety and the safety of others. And people who have not responded to other types of drugs might also be given electroconvulsive therapy, especially if one of their symptoms is depression.
Disability Benefits for Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia might be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, but a diagnosis isn’t enough. The applicant must also be able to show that their symptoms are severe enough that they interfere with doing their job.
To qualify for disability benefits, the applicant must be able to show that they have at least one of several symptoms on a constant or intermittent basis. Delusions or hallucinations are one criteria that an applicant could demonstrate to succeed in a claim for disability benefits. Another option is to exhibit disorganized speech or thinking. Finally, if a person is exhibiting catatonia or other types of grossly disorganized behavior, they might meet the criteria for disability benefits.
After these symptoms have been confirmed, the applicant must also meet one of two other sets of criteria. To meet the first set of criteria, they must exhibit extreme impairment in one or marked impairment in two of the following area, which include understanding, remembering, and applying information. Difficulties interacting with others and adapting to change and managing oneself are two other criteria. Finally, exhibiting difficulties with concentrating, maintaining pace, and persisting is the final criteria that someone might exhibit.
Under the second method, the applicant must be exhibiting symptoms over the course of at least two years, and the symptoms must be medically documented. Additionally, they must be receiving treatment and be living in an environment that is highly structured, which therefore diminishes the appearance of symptoms.
Getting medical-vocational allowance is one other option that some people might try if they don’t fully meet the criteria for psychotic disorders but still has problems that they can’t overcome in order to go to work. The residual functional capacity test is the means that the SSA will use to determine whether or not there’s any work available that the applicant could do. If there isn’t, there’s a good chance that they will be eligible for disability benefits through the SSA.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Schizophrenia, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.