Is Borderline Personality Disorder a Disability?

People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often suffer from intense mood swings and very low self-esteem. Some may even exhibit self-harming or suicidal behavior. With this, many would agree that BPD is a disabling condition.

But is borderline personality disorder a disability under SSA? Can you get disability benefits for it?

Yes, the SSA recognizes borderline personality disorder as a disability. It’s one of the personality disorders listed in the SSA’s adult impairment listing. However, to get disability benefits, you need to prove that your condition meets the SSA’s definition of disability.

To help you determine if you’ll qualify for disability benefits, we created this quick guide.

When is BPD a Disability?

Not everyone with borderline personality disorder experiences the same symptoms. The severity, duration, and frequency of symptoms can vary for each patient.

Some people with BPD may still be able to do gainful work. While others might be able to get back to work with proper intervention.

Because of this, not all cases of BPD can qualify for disability benefits.

According to the SSA, a medical condition can only qualify for disability if:

  • it prevents you from engaging in any substantial gainful activity (SGA)
  • it’s expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death

Substantial gainful activity is the level of work you can do despite your condition. The SSA evaluates SGA based on how much you’re earning per month.

So if you’re not working, you’re obviously not engaging in SGA. But if you are, you must not earn more than a certain level of income.

For 2023, the SGA income limit is $1,470 for non-blind individuals and $2,460 for legally blind individuals. This amount changes each year so make sure to check the SSA’s site for the latest figures.

However, not doing any work isn’t enough evidence that you are disabled. The SSA evaluates your capacity to work and not your actual employment status.

If you are diagnosed with BPD but have manageable symptoms, you may still be able to work and earn more than the SGA amount. As such, the SSA won’t consider you disabled.

In addition, there are lots of evidence-based treatments and therapies for BPD nowadays. So if you’re receiving treatment with promising results, you may have a hard time proving that you are too disabled to work.

BPD in SSA’s Impairment Listing

To determine your capacity to work, the SSA will not just look at your medical condition. They will also evaluate your education and work history to see if you can work in other jobs that will accommodate your BPD symptoms.

However, the SSA also keeps a listing of impairments that it considers disabling regardless of your work history or education. As mentioned earlier, BPD is included in this listing as one of the disabling adult mental disorders.

Under this listing, BPD will automatically be considered a disability if you can:

  1. Provide medical evidence of a pervasive or chronic pattern for at least one of the following symptoms:
  • distrust and suspiciousness of others
  • instability of personal relationships
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • excessive need to be taken care of
  • detachment from social relationships
  • excessive attention-seeking and emotionality
  • violation of and disregard for the rights of others
  • impulsive and aggressive behavioral outbursts
  • preoccupation with perfectionism and orderliness
  1. Prove extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following mental functions:
  • understanding, remembering, and applying information
  • concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • interacting with others
  • adapting or managing oneself

As per SSA guidelines, “extreme limitation” is when your condition interferes very seriously with your ability to independently initiate, sustain, and complete activities. While a “marked limitation” is less than extreme but still poses a serious interference in your daily functioning.

A woman gets disability benefits because the SSA recognizes that she has borderline personality disorder.

What Benefits Can You Get for BPD?

If you meet the SSA’s definition of disability, you may qualify for SSDI and/or SSI benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Disabled people who have worked long enough and recently enough in jobs that pay social security taxes may claim SSDI benefits.

When you’re paying social security taxes, you earn work credits. In general, you need at least 40 work credits to qualify for SSDI. Half of which must be earned in the last 10 years. Though individuals whose disability started when they were young may still qualify even with fewer credits.

How much SSDI benefits you’ll get will depend on your accumulated earnings in all your jobs covered by social security. Though, on average, you can receive anywhere from $100 to $3,627.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is a needs-based benefit. So, to qualify, you must be able to prove that you:

  • are disabled, blind, or aged 65 and above
  • have limited income and resources
  • are a US citizen or a qualified alien
  • are living in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands

“Limited income” in SSI means that you’re not earning more than $914 per month in 2023. Or if you are married, your income must be less than $1,371 per month. This amount changes every year so make sure to check the SSA’s site for the latest figures.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Benefits

Like most mental disorders, BPD isn’t only difficult to diagnose. Proving that it interferes with your ability to work can also be challenging.

Hiring an experienced social security disability lawyer can help increase your chances of getting approved for benefits. Aside from helping you gather medical evidence, an attorney can also help you identify which supporting documents you need to submit.

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About The Author

Judy Ponio is a writer and editor for the Victor Malca Law P.A. website and blog. She enjoys helping people in need with questions about social security disability and workers compensation law. She has a passion for helping those in need and the elderly with accurate legal information that can make a positive difference in their lives.