Schizoaffective disorder is a mental disorder in which individuals suffer from mood problems and a loss of contact with reality. This combination of depression/mania and psychosis can be cyclical, meaning that the symptoms can have periods where they are very present followed periods with few to no symptoms.
This disorder can be quite disabling and may prevent an individual from being able to work. If you are unable to work due to this disorder, you may be eligible for Social Security disability, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Individuals who suffer from schizoaffective disorder can have a range of symptoms that can interfere with work. Symptoms can include:
Beyond the symptoms, individuals with schizoaffective disorder may also suffer from behavioral problems that can include:
To qualify for SSDI and/or SSI, individuals with schizoaffective disorder must prove that they are disabled and unable to work in one of three ways: by meeting the requirements of a disability listing, equaling the requirements of a listing, or proving they are unable to perform any job.
Social Security evaluates schizoaffective disorder under its impairment listing for “schizophrenic spectrum and other psychotic disorders,” listing 12.03 (or 112.03 for children and teenagers).
The first step for individuals with schizoaffective disorder is to show that they have one or more of the following symptoms at least on a regular or intermittent basis:
Note that this listing was updated in 2017 and no longer includes emotional withdrawal or isolation as a listed symptom (way to qualify under the listing).
The second step is to show that you have severe or extreme limitations in certain areas. You must have either an extreme limitation in one of the following areas or a “marked” (severe) limitation in two of the following areas:
If you are not currently suffering from any extreme or severe limitations in the above areas because you are living in a highly protected or supervised situation or you are undergoing intense therapy, you can still provide certain documentation to fulfill the listing. You must show that:
Even with medical records that show a history of schizoaffective disorder, you may be unable to prove that you meet the requirements of the listing for schizophrenic spectrum and psychotic disorders. For instance, Social Security may find that your ability to manage yourself and have normal social interactions are only moderately limited, not severely limited. Or Social Security may believe that your symptoms and limitations are alleviated by taking anti-psychotic medication.
In this case, a psychologist or psychiatrist at Social Security will fill out a form for you creating your mental “residual functional capacity” (RFC). Your RFC describes what types of tasks you can do despite your limitations.
Someone with schizoaffective disorder might be able to do simple unskilled work but suffer from anxiety that might lead to social withdrawal or emotional outbursts or might have substantial difficulty dealing with members of the public. Paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions may make acting properly in a work place impossible. Distractions combined with memory problems could further affect their ability to complete tasks in a timely manner. Social Security could agree that there is no job that someone with the combined effect of these limitations can do on a regular and sustained basis.
Social Security will look at all of your mental limitations and any physical limitations, as well as your age, education level, and work history, in determining your ability to work. For more information, see on our article on how Social Security evaluates mental limitations on the ability to work.