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Ask an Underwriter: Dealing with Mental Health Disorders ... Keep This in Mind


Each year, millions of people face the reality of living with a mental health disorder. In fact, each year one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental health issue.


Because May is Mental Health Month, we would like you to more clearly understand some of the conditions and what you can expect in underwriting. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness,but on life insurance applications, we most commonly see anxiety and depression. 


Anxiety – Anxiety is the body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous or unfamiliar situations. In people with anxiety disorders, this feeling does not go away and gets worse over time. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder fall into this category.


Depression – Depressive disorders can occur in combination with any of the anxiety disorders and include major depression, persistent depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Major depression is often disabling and can include symptoms of hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness and thoughts of suicide. With bipolar disorder, once called manic-depressive disorder, we see a large spectrum of moods from severe depression to mania, including hallucinations


PTSD – Years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in military personal. But PTSD is also found among survivors of natural disasters, victims of crime, and many others who have experienced traumatic events. Symptoms include flashbacks, angry outbursts, insomnia and guilt. Some people recover within six months, while with others, the condition becomes chronic.  



Losing a loved one, getting fired, going through a divorce, and other difficult circumstances can lead a person to feel sad, lonely or anxious. We see these episodes as “situational” and understand they are normal reactions to life’s stressors. The concern in underwriting is people who experience these feelings daily, for no apparent reason, making it difficult to carry on with normal activities.


In addition to the conditions above, we see many other mental health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and postpartum depression, but the key to successful underwriting of ANY mental condition is control and compliance. Medication and psychotherapy are extremely effective in the management of symptoms, so underwriters look for stability and long-term prognosis. We will want make sure your client sees a physician on a regular basis and takes their medication as prescribed. 


Our Mood and Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire will help you get to the heart of the matter. It is straightforward, yet kind, asking questions in a way that should be comfortable for you and your client. Naturally, if you have a specific scenario you would like to discuss, please reach out to me at 



Learn More

1National Alliance on Mental Illness:

2National Institute of Mental Health:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

Ash Brokerage comprehensive questionnaire for Mood and Anxiety Disorders:


About the Author

Laura Dagle has been in the insurance industry for more 35 years, during which time she has been both a producer and an underwriter. As someone who has seen the business from “both sides,” she is keenly aware of your desire to have the smoothest process, easiest underwriting and best possible outcome. She has worked closely with the behavioral and mental health care system and understands the nuances of each condition.  

Underwriting Mental Health Depression Anxiety