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Is Depression a Disability?

Mental illnesses can be debilitating and impair a person’s functioning. This often creates challenges in work performance, family life, and social interactions. Many people with this disorder need to take time off work for appointments, treatment, or to recover from a depressive episode. They may request accommodations, so they aren’t punished for this time off. However, to receive official accommodations, they must have a qualifying diagnosis. But what qualifies a disorder as a disability, and does depression fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

ADA Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of employees with disabilities by ensuring they have adequate support and aren’t discriminated against. This means that people who have impaired functioning can’t be terminated due to the effects of their diagnosis. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” To receive an accommodation, a person must demonstrate substantial impairment. In other words, this diagnosis has to significantly limit major life functions. 

Is Depression a Disability Under ADA?

Depression can qualify as a disability under the ADA, but it must meet one of the following criteria outlined in the law:

  • Significant impairment in life activities or bodily functions
  • An official record of this impairment
  • Perceived impairment by others

The ADA keeps these guidelines intentionally vague because each person’s experience is different. For example, someone with mild depression may manage the diagnosis well and have no need for additional support in the workplace. In contrast, another person may struggle to care for themselves regularly and have treatment-resistant depression. The latter would likely prompt a conversation with an employer about supportive measures. 

Generally, those with mental and psychiatric disabilities that inhibit their ability to perform or succeed at work qualify for rights under the ADA. These rights include a right to privacy and reasonable accommodations. This usually involves a discussion with a person’s employer to agree on adjustments that can be made while still maintaining the integrity of the position. 

ADA Coverage For Addiction Recovery

Depression can lead to substance misuse and result in an addiction, prompting people to seek ADA support for both conditions. While the ADA doesn’t protect people who are actively using drugs or alcohol, those who are in recovery are eligible for coverage under the law. For example, someone who has successfully completed an addiction treatment program and is no longer using cannot be discriminated against. Similarly, a person who is currently in a treatment program and is sober has the same protection. This provides hope, especially for those who are considering a treatment program. 

Addiction Treatment at Vista Taos

For those looking to start their recovery journey, Vista Taos can help. We offer support ranging from medical detoxification to residential treatment and extended care programs. Our focus is on addressing the underlying issues that contribute to a person’s addiction, including previous trauma or mental health conditions. We utilize a holistic treatment model to heal the mind, body, and spirit of every person who walks through our doors. If you’re ready to fully commit to recovery, contact our New Mexico treatment center today.

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