Does Depression Qualify As A Short-Term Disability?

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Depression can be a serious mental health condition that affects approximately 280 million people around the world.

Depressive disorders are generally characterized by low mood, fatigue, lack of motivation, and trouble sleeping—symptoms that can be debilitating and significantly reduce a person’s ability to work and perform other daily functions. 

Because of this, many people have questions regarding whether depression qualifies as a disability, which, if taken, may help them take the time they need to address the condition without being financially impacted. Short-term disability insurance can be a method of providing support to those who miss work because of illness. 

Below, we’re going to discuss how depression might be covered under short-term disability insurance, possibly supporting many in managing symptoms of depression. 

What classifies as a disability?

Workers in the United States generally have numerous programs that ensure they are provided with aid if an injury or illness makes work difficult or impossible. 

For example: Laws were established in 1990 to ensure those with a disability have the same rights and opportunities as other Americans; effectively prohibiting discrimination against those living with a disability in the workplace and other public spaces. Several different types of illnesses and injuries can now qualify as a disability under various programs. 

For short-term disability insurance, a disability is usually defined as a condition that causes the individual to miss work temporarily (and did not develop at work). 

Depression is recognized as a disability by many exclusive and government-run insurance programs; and, in fact, is generally considered one of the foremost causes of disability globally. Depressive disorders can be debilitating for those affected, possibly making everyday activities like work more complicated. They can also vary when it comes to their causes, symptoms, and durations. 

For example: Someone may experience seasonal affective disorder that only impacts their mental health during winter months. 

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Depression can impair your ability to work

How depression can impair job performance

Research shows that there can be a close connection between the severity of depressive symptoms and decreases in workplace productivity. Depression can lead to a lack of energy, low mood, fatigue, physical pain, and other symptoms that can make it hard for an employee to perform their duties. Individuals living with depression may have a hard time maintaining focus, communicating with coworkers effectively, or completing tasks that are physical in nature. 

Many people work despite a diagnosis of clinical depression, possibly feeling prompted to avoid taking sick days because they do not have a physical illness. 

This can result in an employee no longer being able to function at work, performing at a lower level, and finding themselves in danger of losing their job. Disability benefits, which we’ll discuss below, are one tool that can support employees working through mental health challenges without the pressure of continuing to work in a strained manner. 

Does depression qualify as a short-term disability?

Short-term disability insurance is generally regarded as a program in the US that can be offered by employers, personal insurance companies, and certain states. 

Unlike the benefits that can be provided under the ADA—such as continuing health insurance coverage and the guarantee that one will not be terminated—short-term disability is generally limited to payments to the individual. 

Ordinarily, an employee can obtain disability benefits under the ADA (or, in some cases, the FMLA) while also receiving short-term disability payments. 

We do want to note that the temporary nature of short-term disability insurance programs is that the benefits are usually only paid for up to two months—though the exact time period will depend on the provider. 

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Treatment options for depression

Typically, depression can be treated with a combination of therapy and medication—though the exact treatment plan might depend on the individual and their symptoms. There are also numerous self-help strategies that can alleviate symptoms and make everyday functioning easier. 

Here are some strategies to consider with your practitioner if you are looking for treatment options:


Medication can help provide significant relief and improve the outcome of psychotherapy. The most common types of prescribed antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and beta blockers. We recommend that you consult with a healthcare professional before starting or stopping medication. 


Psychotherapy can help an individual living with depression to learn more about the condition and address their symptoms. Many experts have found that it is an effective method of treating depression, although combined therapy and medication are thought to be the most efficacious approach for many. 

Lifestyle changes

Healthy habits, such as avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption, adopting a balanced diet, and exercising can improve your mood. Additionally, practices such as journaling, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and aromatherapy have all been suggested to help decrease depression symptoms. You may consider developing a self-care routine that incorporates a variety of these activities into your everyday life to support your overall function. 

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Depression can impair your ability to work

Utilize your support system

Depression can cause withdrawal and isolation, which may exacerbate symptoms. You might consider reaching out to family and friends for support and with them how you feel. Research suggests that surrounding yourself with a strong support network can be beneficial for your mental well-being

How can online therapy support those living with depression?

Online therapy can provide you with effective care that is tailored to your needs. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can participate in therapy remotely, which can be helpful if depression is impacting your ability to leave home. Your therapist can then connect you with useful resources that can help you navigate depression in the workplace. 

Additionally, a mental health professional can help you address depression symptoms that may be preventing you from being as productive as you’d like. 

Support for depression through online therapy: Is it effective?

Online psychotherapy is considered by many to be a front-line method of treatment for depression, and a growing body of research suggests that online therapy can be as effective as—and, in many cases, more effective than—in-person counseling. For example, a meta-analysis of studies has indicated that online therapy can be comparatively effective when compared to face-to-face therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is generally regarded as a commonly utilized modality that can help individuals identify and replace negative thought patterns that may be leading to maladaptive behaviors and emotions— such as those related to depressive symptoms. 


Depression can seem debilitating, possibly making daily functioning difficult. For those who are covered under certain plans, short-term disability insurance can help provide financial support as they navigate a depressive disorder. If you’re looking for valuable support and guidance as you work to manage depression symptoms, you might consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online. With the right help, you can take steps toward living a healthy, productive life. BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist in your area of need.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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