Anhedonia is the loss of interest in things that were previously enjoyable or rewarding to you, such as interacting with friends or succeeding at work. Instead of feeling happiness, individuals with anhedonia feel nothing at all in response to activities that use to make them happy. Additionally, individuals with anhedonia often have extremely flat moods, not reacting properly or feeling anything, and having minimal variation in mood. Overall, with fewer positive rewards for participating in activities, motivation often begins to decrease.
If anhedonia progresses to a point that you are unable to function at home and/or are unable to work, you might be eligible for disability benefits through Social Security. However, unless anhedonia is a symptom of another mental illness, including depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, anhedonia is unlikely to qualify for you fordisabilitybenefits on its own.
How to Qualify for Benefits
There are three ways in which you can qualify for Social Security disability benefits for a mental disorder (this applies to both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)). You can:
- meet the requirements of a disability listing
- have symptoms that are equal in severity and duration to those of a disability listing, or
- prove that your mental limitations make it impossible for you to work or keep a job.
Meeting a Listing
To meet the requirements of one of Social Security's disability listings, you must show that you have an impairment that is listed in the Social Security “Blue Book” and that you have symptoms and functional limitations that match the criteria set out in that particular listing.
Anhedonia does not have a listing in the Social Security Blue Book, but related mental illnesses like depression do. If your anhedonia is a symptom of a larger mental illness, you may be able to meet a listing. Mental illness listings for which anhedonia is a possible symptom include:
- listing 12.03, which covers schizophrenia, and
- listing 12.04, which covers depression and bipolar disorder. In this listing, anhedonia is listed specifically as one of the symptoms that, in part, will allow you to meet the overall listing.
Equaling a Listing
To "equal a listing," you must show that you have an impairment that is very similar to a listed impairment and your impairment is the same in duration and severity as the listed impairment.
For those with anhedonia, it would be very difficult to show that the impairment alone rises to the level of the other listings. For example, anhedonia is only one possible symptom of the required four symptoms that must be met to meet Listing 12.04 for affective disorders (depression and bipolar disorder). If you don't have additional symptoms,. there are additional symptoms, you won't be able to equal the listing; if you do, it's likely that you will meet the listing as discussed above, in "Meeting a Listing."
Disability Based on Your Inability to Work
If you don't meet a listing (most disability applicants don't), Social Security must evaluate whether your medical condition limits you so severely that you can't work. To determine if you are unable to work, Social Security uses a mental residual functional capacity (RFC) form, which assesses your mental and emotional abilities. For those with anhedonia, their emotional abilities are significantly impaired.
Lack of motivation is a key limitation for those with anhedonia with regards to work and can affect their ability to complete tasks at work. If an individual feels no sense of accomplishment or happiness in achieving at his or her job, the individual may lack any drive to complete even assigned tasks. Additionally, an inability to respond properly in social situations may affect relationships with coworkers. However, anhedonia alone will probably not rise to the level necessary for Social Security to agree that you are unable to work, because increased supervision may allow you continue to be successful in the workplace. If you also have severe physical medical conditions, however, anhedonia may combine with them to becoming disabling in the eyes of Social Security. For more information, see our article on how Social Security views multiple impairments.