Getting Disability for Antisocial Personality Disorder in a Child, Teen, or Adult

Getting Social Security disability benefits for conduct disorder or a personality disorder like antisocial personality disorder is difficult but not impossible.

By , J.D. · Albany Law School
Updated by Bethany K. Laurence, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

It's not common for a child or teenager to get SSI disability benefits or for an adult to get disability benefits for antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) or a similar condition—but it's possible.

What Is Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Antisocial personality disorder is a mental condition in which a person is unable to relate to other people and interact in society. Common traits of ASPD include:

  • being indifferent to the feelings of others
  • using deceptive tactics to achieve personal goals, and
  • engaging in risky activities.

Children and teenagers generally aren't diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder before they've reached the age of 18. But people under 18 can be diagnosed with similar conditions, like:

How to Get Disability Benefits for ASPD

To qualify for any type of Social Security disability benefit, a child or adult with ASPD must meet both the technical requirements of the particular benefit program and the SSA's medical requirements.

Obtaining SSI Benefits for a Child With ASPD

Because children generally have little to no work history, they don't qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. But a disabled child can qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if the child's family meets the financial requirements.

A child who meets these technical requirements must also meet the medical requirements for disability. To be eligible for SSI disability benefits, your child must have been diagnosed with a personality disorder that:

  • has lasted for 12 consecutive months or more, and
  • causes significant limitations in the child's functioning.

In deciding if your child's ASPD is disabling, Social Security will consider your child's behavior in various environments, such as:

  • at home
  • in school, and
  • in public.

There are two ways your teen might qualify for SSI disability benefits with antisocial personality disorder or conduct disorder. First, your child could meet or "equal" the criteria for a personality disorder as detailed in the Listing of Impairments (also known as the "Blue Book"). Second, your child could "functionally equal" the listings if Social Security finds deficits in various domains (areas) of functioning.

Getting SSI or SSDI for an Adult With ASPD

An adult with a significant work history might qualify for disability benefits through SSDI, SSI, or both. To be eligible for SSDI benefits, you must meet the work requirements—that is, you must have worked long enough and paid enough Social Security tax (FICA) to be "insured." (Learn more about the SSDI work requirements.)

If you don't meet the work requirements for SSDI, you might be eligible for SSI disability benefits if your income and resources are below the SSI limits. Whether you apply for SSDI or SSI, you'll need to meet both the program's technical requirements and Social Security's definition of disabled.

Meeting the Listing for Personality Disorders With ASPD

Social Security's Listing of Impairments has two parts. Listings for Personality and Impulse-Control Disorders appear in both the adult listings (listing 12.08) and the childhood listings (listing 112.08). To automatically qualify for disability benefits under the listings, adults and children must meet the same criteria.

To meet either listing, an adult or child must have been diagnosed with a personality disorder by a health care provider, such as:

  • a physician
  • a pediatrician
  • a licensed psychologist, or
  • a psychiatrist.

And whether it's you or your child who's applying for disability, you must have medical records that show certain long-lasting personality traits that indicate difficulty coping with the outside world.

The personality disorder listings require that an adult or child with ASPD has at least one of the required symptoms and that the disorder significantly affects at least some of the areas of mental functioning.

Required Symptoms for ASPD

To meet the listing for personality disorder, an adult or child with ASPD must exhibit one or more of the following criteria for antisocial personality disorder::

  • detachment from social relationships
  • inappropriate suspiciousness or distrust of others
  • unstable personal relationships
  • disregard for and violation of the rights of others
  • excessive emotionality and attention-seeking behavior
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • excessive need to be taken care of
  • preoccupation with perfectionism and orderliness, or
  • recurrent, impulsive, and aggressive behavioral outbursts.

Effects of ASPD on Mental Function

The child's or adult's antisocial personality disorder must cause significant limitations in mental functioning—either an extreme limitation in one or a "marked" (severe) limitation in two of the following areas:

  • Interacting with others:
    • cooperating with others
    • maintaining friendships
    • handling conflicts with others, or
    • responding to criticism appropriately
  • Adapting or managing oneself
    • adapting to changes
    • controlling own behavior, or
    • protecting self from harm
  • Concentrating on tasks
    • completing tasks in a timely manner
    • ignoring or avoiding distractions while working
    • changing activities or work settings without being disruptive, or
    • working close to or with others without interrupting or distracting them, and/or
  • Learning, understanding, and remembering information
    • learning new material
    • following oral instructions, or
    • using reason and judgment to make decisions.

Note that Social Security assesses a child's mental functioning based on the child's ability to perform age-appropriate activities. For example, a nine-year-old isn't expected to have the same capacity for reasoning or decision-making as a pre-adolescent or teen.

Getting Disability for a Child Because of Functional Limitations

If your child's antisocial traits don't meet or equal the disability listing for personality disorders, Social Security will move to the step of looking at all of your child's functional limitations as a whole, including any other medical conditions your child may have. The SSA will also examine whether the child is limited in all environments or only in certain places, such as home or school.

Functional Limitations Social Security Considers

Your child could qualify for disability benefits by "functionally equalling the listings" if they have documentation of severe restrictions in two (or an extreme limitation in one) of the following six "domains" of functioning:

  • obtaining and using information
  • focusing on and finishing tasks
  • relating well with others (for example, does your child struggle with forming friendships?)
  • physically moving around and handling objects
  • performing personal care (for example, looking out for cars and being cautious before stepping out on a crosswalk), and
  • your child's overall health and physical state of being (for example, is your child generally healthy?).

Example of a Child's ASPD Disability Claim

Let's look at the hypothetical case of Tim, a 16-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with conduct disorder and likely has antisocial personality disorder as well. Tim engages in risky behavior, such as trying to steal cars and vandalizing school property. Furthermore, Tim has displays of anger and is suspicious of others.

Tim has difficulty making close friends and regularly fights with other students at school. He's been expelled from one school for fighting. As such, Tim likely has an extreme limitation in the domain of relating well with others.

Tim's psychiatrist has given him medication for his condition. But the medication causes Tim some daytime sleepiness and affects his ability to focus on schoolwork during the day. Thus, Tim could also have a moderate limitation (less than severe) in the second domain of focusing on and finishing tasks.

Tim could be found disabled if the medical evidence supports that Tim acts out in these ways as a result of his personality disorder and that he'll still have these limitations despite the use of medications and psychological counseling.

Getting Disability Because ASPD Keeps You From Working

If you're an adult with antisocial personality disorder but don't meet the requirements of the listing, you might still qualify for disability. You'll need to show that you can't work because of your ASPD.

If you don't meet a listing, Social Security will create a mental residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment for you. Your mental RFC will contain information about your mental limitations—specifically those that make it difficult for you to hold down a full-time job.

For example, someone with ASPD would likely have trouble functioning in a work environment if the person is:

  • unable to control their emotions
  • preoccupied with perfectionism
  • easily angered, or
  • frequently absent or late for work because of a disregard for the rules.

It can be difficult to hold down a job if your mental condition prevents you from responding appropriately to supervisors or customers. And ASPD symptoms like poor anger management or impulse control might negatively affect your ability to interact with coworkers and customers and significantly affect your decision-making process.

Antisocial personality disorder and some of the medications used to treat it can also affect your productivity at work. For instance, extreme perfectionism might cause you to miss deadlines constantly. Or you might have trouble focusing on work because your medication makes you sleepy or foggy-headed.

You might qualify for disability if ASPD makes it impossible for you to be productive at any kind of job. Learn more in our article on qualifying for disability because of reduced productivity.

Applying for Disability for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Adults can apply for SSDI or SSI in one of three ways:

Applying for SSI for a child is a two-step process. First, you must let Social Security know you want to file a child's application. You can notify the SSA you want to apply for SSI for a child by completing an online questionnaire or filing an online child disability report. You can also contact your local Social Security office or call the number above.

Once you notify the SSA of your intent to file a child's application, Social Security will contact you with an interview appointment where you'll complete the application process (by phone or in person).

Getting Help With a Disability Claim for ASPD

It can be challenging to get disability benefits for an adult or child based on antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). You'd likely benefit from consulting with a disability lawyer.

It generally costs you nothing upfront to hire an attorney to help with your claim. Disability lawyers are paid from the back payments you or your child will be entitled to receive if Social Security grants benefits. You may be able to find a disability lawyer who will provide a free consultation with you about your chances of getting benefits.

Updated March 27, 2024

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