What Are Invisible Disabilities?Updated September 9, 2022 Social Security Disability
Invisible disabilities may not be obvious, but they can still wreak havoc on an individual’s ability to carry out the tasks of day-to-day life. By some estimates, as much as 10% of the American population suffers from a hidden disability that makes daily life difficult and sometimes painful. 96% of all people living with a chronic illness suffer symptoms that are invisible to the naked eye.
While some may be able to hide their disabilities and carry on with daily living, many others struggle with day-to-day activities. When an invisible disability is severe and pervasive enough, it may qualify you for Social Security disability benefits. There are many invisible disabilities listed in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments.
10 Common Invisible Disabilities
- Chronic Pain
- Mental Illness
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Crohn’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lyme Disease
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The term “invisible disability” covers a wide range of medical conditions, many of which are neurological. This makes it difficult to detect by simply looking at someone. In fact, people with invisible disabilities are often accused of faking their conditions, simply because their illnesses or medical conditions aren’t visibly obvious. Many of these disabilities require the expert eye of a physician or advanced diagnostic techniques to be able to effectively diagnose.
Despite their “invisibility,” these disabilities can have a profound effect on an individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day work duties. Invisible conditions can include anything from chronic illness to diabetes and sleep disorders – even though you can’t see them, they have powerful effects on one’s quality of life. While the effects of invisible disabilities can be tremendous for the sufferers, others may find it difficult to recognize or acknowledge the disability.
What Is an Invisible Disability?
An invisible disability is a health concern or medical condition that isn’t detectable by the eye. According to the Invisible Disabilities Association, a hidden disability can manifest in many different types of symptoms, including debilitating pain, dizziness, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, learning difficulties, as well as hearing and vision impairments.
Many invisible disabilities are difficult for others to understand since they can’t easily see evidence that a condition exists. However, a growing number of governments, institutions, and organizations around the world are starting to recognize and provide accommodations for those with invisible disabilities.
Some invisible disabilities may make you eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. For example, many invisible disabilities are listed in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments. Others are not listed, but may still be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if medical documentation shows that the condition, either on its own or in combination with other medical conditions, keeps you from working or engaging in substantial gainful activity.
It’s also important to remember that the SSA will not consider each medical condition you report in isolation – instead, reviewers will look at your case holistically. So, for example, if you show medical documentation of suffering from fibromyalgia, along with ADHD and asthma, you’re more likely to be approved for Social Security disability benefits than if you only provided medical documentation for one of those conditions.
Appropriately documenting invisible disabilities can be a complex and lengthy process. If you think you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits based on an invisible condition, you may want to connect with a qualified disability lawyer who can help evaluate the strength of your claim and advise as to what kinds of medical documentation can best support your case. When you work with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney, you greatly improve your chances of getting approved. In the meantime, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to understand some of the most common disabilities and conditions that are undetectable by the naked eye.
10 Common Invisible Disabilities
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most prevalent invisible disabilities and how they might position you for Social Security disability benefits.
1. Chronic Pain
Many people suffer from chronic pain, and the causes are seemingly endless. Physical injuries, bone disease, back problems, arthritis, and more can all cause people to deal with constant pain on a daily basis. Joint issues are a common source of chronic pain that can either be consistent or cyclical in nature. Chronic pain alone is not listed in the SSA’s Blue Book listing, but you may be able to qualify for SSDI benefits based on the underlying condition that causes your chronic pain. You must be able to submit appropriate medical documentation to this effect.
2. Mental Illness
Most, mental illnesses are invisible to the naked eye unless the symptoms are extreme. Whether agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, ADHD, or a host of other mental illnesses, their presence is no less profound for the fact that the illness itself is invisible. Any of these conditions can make life miserable for the victim and make day-to-day tasks nearly unbearably difficult, if not impossible. While most mental illnesses are invisible, the good news is that more people are discussing mental illness in America than ever before, and many of the previous stigmas around mental health issues are being lifted.
Many mental health issues are included in the SSA’s Listing of Impairments, which means you may be a good candidate for Social Security disability benefits if you can provide sufficient evidence. However, keep in mind that just because a particular mental health issue is on the list, it doesn’t guarantee that your benefits claim will automatically be approved. Likewise, many other mental health issues that aren’t on the list won’t necessarily be denied. It all depends on the medical evidence and documentation of how your mental health condition affects the quality of your day-to-day life and your ability to perform work-related duties.
Considered the leading cause of chronic musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia affects anywhere from 3-26 million Americans and can make daily tasks profoundly painful. A disability claim for fibromyalgia alone has historically been difficult to obtain since its symptoms are largely subjective. The medical community doesn’t fully understand its causes. However, recent changes to the review process have made it less likely that a fibromyalgia claim is rejected upon first review.
4. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Those battling chronic fatigue syndrome seem inexplicably tired all the time, greatly influencing their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Chronic fatigue syndrome is extremely debilitating and can permeate every aspect of a person’s life, including his ability to carry out day-to-day tasks and work duties. For a chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosis to merit Social Security benefits, your claim must show that your situation meets SSDI requirements and the SSA’s Blue Book listing criteria and that your condition has left you unable to perform your job duties for at least one year. It’s worth noting that the SSA relies heavily on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition of chronic fatigue syndrome, so make sure you’re familiar with it before compiling the information for your claim.
5. Traumatic Brain Injury
Victims of car crashes or other traumatic accidents may suffer from traumatic brain injury. Symptoms vary widely depending on the type and severity of the injury, along with the area of the brain that is affected. Traumatic brain injury does not have a specific SSA listing in and of itself, but traumatic brain injuries that render someone unable to work can still be approved for Social Security disability benefits in some cases, especially if the injury is in addition to other health conditions or disabilities.
6. Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s Disease is one of many conditions that fall under the umbrella of irritable bowel disorders, which affect as many as 1.6 million Americans. The SSA does show a listing for irritable bowel disorders, so if your claim can prove that your situation meets the conditions of the listing, you might be approved for Social Security disability benefits.
Diabetes is a health condition in which the body is unable to process glucose because it doesn’t manufacture enough insulin. When not controlled effectively, diabetes also can lead to a host of other health issues, including stroke, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. Some people who have been unable to work for at least a year because of their uncontrolled diabetes may be eligible for disability benefits if they can show documentation that their diabetes severely limits their ability to work.
8. Multiple Sclerosis
A chronic neuromuscular disease, multiple sclerosis generally progresses over time and may become severe enough to render someone unable to carry out daily work duties. Though applicants with multiple sclerosis can be approved for benefits, many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis are episodic, making it sometimes difficult to meet the requirement that the condition has kept you from working for at least one year. However, the SSA does have a listing for multiple sclerosis, so if you can show that your condition is advanced enough to meet the conditions of the listing, you are likely eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
9. Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease affects roughly 300,000 Americans each year and brings with it a potential set of symptoms that can be mild to debilitating. The SSA does not have a Blue Book listing for Lyme Disease. However, the duration and severity of some Lyme Disease symptoms may align with other Blue Book listings, such as mobility issues or heart damage.
10. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a specific mental health disorder brought on by a traumatic event. The SSA does recognize PTSD within its Blue Book listings, so if your PTSD is severe enough to render you unable to work and you can show documentation that your condition meets the criteria in the PTSD listing, you could be approved for Social Security disability benefits.
Living with an Invisible Disability
Many people in the United States live with disabilities or medical conditions that aren’t perceptible by simply looking at them. Some can manage their condition and still participate in work, hobbies, and social activities. But others may struggle with day-to-day tasks, including being able to carry out their work duties.
People across the full range of invisible disabilities often are suspected of faking or exaggerating their conditions, but this simply isn’t the case. Invisible disabilities can have a profound effect on a person's ability to successfully navigate day-to-day activities. If the invisible disability is severe enough, it may even qualify for Social Security disability benefits.