If you suffer from borderline personality disorder and it affects your ability to function at work, you may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that is characterized by significant emotional instability and highly impulsive behaviors. Specifically, individuals with BPD have difficulty controlling their emotions and often experience significant changes in their personality over short periods of time.
Someone suffering from borderline personality disorder will likely have many of the following symptoms:
Those with BPD frequently have other mental illnesses (approximately 85%) as well, including:
In order to qualify for disability benefits through Social Security, including Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you must show that you are unable to work due to your impairment. You can convince Social Security of this in one of two ways.
There is a specific listing for all personality disorders in the “blue book” that covers borderline personality disorder (as well as schizotypal personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and others). Social Security defines personality disorders as disorders characterized by inflexibility and an inability to adapt to different situations, which causes significant impairment in social relationships or the ability to get or maintain a job.
To meet the listing for personality disorders, which was updated significantly in 2017, you must prove you meet the requirements of both of the following areas.
Social Security wants to see your specific symptoms and any laboratory findings from your psychiatrist or psychologist, as well as the effect of your impairments on your functional abilities and how long your impairments are expected to last. You should submit the following to Social Security with your disability application:
Social Security will also want to see your treatment history over a period of time. While this is not mandatory, it would be very helpful to provide if available.
If Social Security decides your condition doesn't meet the requirements of the personality disorders listing, it will consider whether your limitations should really be keeping your from working. To do this, Social Security will create a mental residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment for you. An RFC for someone with BPD would list the mental limitations that make it difficult to work and hold down a job.
The lack of control of emotions and tendency towards anger that cannot be controlled would be the biggest obstacles for individuals with BPD to getting and maintaining a job. Such characteristics would make working with coworkers difficult and could prevent an individual from responding properly to supervision. Also, anger problems may cause issues if an individual is asked to deal with customers. While there are solitary jobs available, the inability to control one’s emotions could hinder the ability to complete a task (for example, becoming angry and frustrated due to difficulty with a task and stopping the task). Impulsivity could also drastically affect the decision-making process and the ability to succeed in the workplace.
For more information, see our article on how Social Security uses mental RFCs to determine disability.