How to Prepare for a Social Security Disability Mental Exam

If you or someone close to you is living with a mental disorder, applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits might involve a comprehensive mental exam. Understanding what to expect can reduce anxiety and set you up for success.

Understanding the Purpose of the Mental Exam

Psychological tests play an essential role in the Social Security Disability benefits application process. These exams are specifically designed to evaluate individuals claiming disability benefits due to mental health conditions. The primary purpose of each mental exam is to provide an objective, professional assessment of the applicant’s mental health status and their ability or inability to work.

Qualifying Mental Disorders

The SSA has established a comprehensive set of criteria to evaluate mental disorders for disability benefits. These criteria are organized into 11 categories listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. The 11 categories include the following:

  • Neurocognitive Disorders – Conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s that affect memory, attention, and learning abilities
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders – Disorders like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and delusional disorder characterized by a loss of contact with reality
  • Depressive, Bipolar, and Related Disorders – Mood disorders, such as major depression and bipolar disorder, which significantly impact an individual’s emotional state
  • Intellectual Disorders – Intellectually disabling conditions involving significant limitations in cognitive functioning and adaptive behavior
  • Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders – Conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), characterized by excessive worry, fear, or compulsive behaviors
  • Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders – Disorders like somatic symptom disorder and illness anxiety disorder with physical symptoms that cannot be attributed to general medical conditions
  • Personality and Impulse-Control Disorders – Conditions like borderline or antisocial personality disorder, characterized by maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders – Disorders involving persistent deficits in social communication and interaction, along with restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders – Disorders like ADHD and learning disabilities, characterized by developmental deficits in personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning
  • Eating Disorders – Conditions like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior
  • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders – Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder, which are related to experiencing or witnessing traumatic events

Types Of Psychological Tests

The SSA uses various mental exams to assess the mental conditions of SSDI applicants. These tests aid in evaluating each person’s mental capacity, memory, and other aspects of their psychological functioning.

Psychological tests the SSA might consider in its determination process include the following:

  • Intelligence Tests – These tests measure intellectual functioning, including problem-solving abilities, verbal comprehension, and working memory.
  • Standardized Tests Of Adaptive Functioning – These assessments determine how well an individual can adapt and carry out everyday tasks and social responsibilities.
  • Academic Achievement Tests – These tests evaluate an individual’s academic abilities in areas such as reading, writing, and mathematics.
  • Neuropsychological Batteries – These comprehensive tests measure cognitive functioning and are particularly helpful in detecting brain dysfunction.
  • Memory Tests – These specifically assess different types of memory abilities, including immediate recall, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
  • Personality Measures – These assessments identify enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself.
  • Screening Tests – These are preliminary tests used to detect possible mental health issues that require further assessment.
  • Performance Validity Tests – These tests are for determining whether the test taker is providing maximum effort or true and accurate responses.
  • Symptom Validity Tests – These are used to determine the authenticity of reported symptoms and to rule out exaggeration or malingering.

Preparing for a Social Security Disability Mental Exam

Here are some practical steps you can take to prepare yourself for a mental exam:

  • Consult a Lawyer – A lawyer can explain the purpose and the process of the exam, including the types of mental tests you might undergo, allowing you to prepare more effectively.
  • Review Your Medical History – Take the time to review your own medical history. Your ability to accurately and thoroughly discuss your history with the examiner could be important.
  • Document Your Symptoms – Keep a journal of your symptoms. This can be a helpful tool in communicating effectively about the mental health condition and how it impacts your daily life.
  • Rest Well Before the Exam – Ensure you get a good night’s sleep before the exam. Being well-rested will help you to better focus and respond during the exam.

Speak with a Disability Lawyer Now

Applying for SSDI benefits can be overwhelming, especially when a mental exam is involved. At Fusco, Brandenstein & Rada, P.C., we’re committed to making this process as smooth as possible for you. To understand how we can assist you, call us now at 516-496-0400 to take advantage of your free case review.

Last Updated : September 14, 2023