Psychological Disability: Fact or Fiction?

Is there such a thing as psychological disability? Can someone’s mental condition render them incapable of work? The answer to both questions is yes. The most severe form of psychological disability is schizophrenia. Most scientists believe it is genetically based. The symptoms may include hallucinations, delusions, and flat affect or mood. Medication is required and the condition is life-long.


Schizophrenia affects approximately 1% of the population, usually between the ages of 13 and 30. It tends to be a severely debilitating condition causing the sufferer to go in and out of reality.


The second most severe psychological disability is major depressive disorder. This disorder occurs much more frequently in the population than schizophrenia, affecting approximately 15% of the population at one time or another in their lives, unlike schizophrenia it may discontinue on its own or with psychotherapy and medication. It is estimated that by the year 2020, major depressive disorder will be the second leading cause of disability behind heart conditions. Major depressive disorder is manifested by an inability to concentrate, eating disturbances, sleep disturbances, feelings of self-loathing, and indecisiveness. In extreme conditions, suicidal ideation or actual suicidal attempts may emerge.


A variety of other major mental health disorders may be caused or exacerbated by the work environment due to job stress, a hostile work environment, bullying, or sexual harassment. These circumstances may produce phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. A thorough psychological evaluation will determine the nature and extent of the psychological disability and how to appropriately treat it. The evaluation includes a thorough case history, diagnostic interview and appropriate psychological testing to assess cognitive impairment as well as psychological impairment.

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