Can I claim ESA for depression and anxiety? 

In this article, we answer a popular question: “Can I claim ESA for depression and anxiety?”

We also offer a short guide for those who want to claim ESA benefits but are not sure where to start. 

Can I claim ESA for depression and anxiety?

Yes, you can claim ESA for depression and anxiety. A majority of ESA claims are for stress, anxiety, and depression.

Once the applicant collects a medical certificate (fit note) for their medical specialist, they can then make an ESA claim with the Department for Work and Pension (DWP).

Claiming ESA with a Diagnosis of Depression and Anxiety

ESA is a payment you could get every 2 weeks to help with your living costs.

There are 2 types of ESA – called ‘contribution-based’ and ‘income-related’. You can be eligible for either, or both at the same time. 

Contribution-based or ‘new style’ ESA

You may be able to get contribution-based ESA if:

  • you have a health condition that makes it difficult or impossible to work (depression and anxiety counts here)
  • you’re not getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from an employer (but you can apply up to 3 months before your SSP ends – if you get ESA, it will be paid as soon as your SSP ends)
  • you’re not old enough to get the State Pension
  • you don’t work, are going to stop work or the work you do will be ‘permitted work’ when you claim ESA
  • you live in the UK. If you live in the EEA or Switzerland you may get ESA if you have previously lived in the UK.

You’ll also need to meet National Insurance conditions for the last 2 complete tax years before you claim – in 2020 these years are 2017/18 and 2018/19.

To meet the National Insurance conditions, you’ll need to have either paid enough National Insurance:

  • in both of the last 2 tax years
  • in 1 of the last 2 tax years and been credited with enough National Insurance contributions in the other tax year

If you haven’t paid enough NI contributions to get contribution-based ESA, you may be able to get income-related ESA. 

Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA for most people. You can make a new claim for income-related ESA if you’re getting, or recently stopped getting, a benefit with a severe disability premium (SDP).

You might be getting an SDP with:

  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit

Check your award letter to see if you’re getting an SDP.

If you’re not eligible

You can check what benefits and extra help you could get.

You might be eligible for Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.  

How to claim ESA for depression and anxiety

There are 3 stages to applying for ESA:

1. Fill in the claim form (called the ESA1 or NSESAF1) – everyone has to do this.

2. Complete a ‘capability for work questionnaire’ with questions about your health and abilities (called ESA50) – most people have to do this.

3. Go to a medical assessment with a healthcare practitioner – most people have to do this.

There can be a gap of several weeks, or even months, between each stage of the process.

If you don’t return your ESA50 form or attend your medical assessment, you’ll be considered fit for work. You won’t be able to make another claim for ESA unless you have a different or deteriorating condition.

Claiming new style (contribution-based) ESA

To claim “New style” ESA, you need to fill in the NSESAF1 form. You can download and print the NSESAF1 form from GOV.UK or you can phone the DWP and ask them to send you a form by post.

When you phone the DWP, they’ll book a meeting in the next 10 working days. Fill in the NSESAF1 form and take it to the meeting.

Also, take along any medical documents and anything else they ask for.

Make sure you tell the DWP the first date you became ill – they can backdate your claim for up to 3 months.

If you’re waiting to get other important documents from, for example, other healthcare professionals, you can send these as you get them.

You have up to a month after the DWP gets your form to send any other documents they ask for.

If you miss this deadline, your application will be canceled and you’ll have to start again.

Universal Credit has replaced income-related ESA for most people.

Before you make a claim, you should check if you can get income-related ESA. You might need to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you’re eligible for income-related ESA, you should claim:

  • by phone – an adviser will fill in an ESA1 claim form for you during the call
  • by filling in an ESA1 form and giving it to your local Jobcentre or posting it to the DWP.

You can’t send your claim online. Most people apply on the phone – you can get your first ESA payment more quickly if you apply this way.

The phone call usually lasts between 20 and 30 minutes.

Be prepared

Whichever way you apply, you’ll need to provide information including:

  • your National Insurance number
  • what your illness or disability is
  • your doctor’s contact details
  • work you’re doing or details of benefits that you get
  • rent or mortgage details for where you live
  • any savings or investments you’ve got, or other money coming in (like benefits or child maintenance)
  • bank account details for where you want ESA paid

Next steps

After you’ve submitted your claim form and gone for an interview if necessary, the DWP will either:

  • decide that you’re not eligible for ESA
  • send you a capability for work questionnaire to fill in which asks more detailed questions about your health and ability 
  • decide from your claim form that you are not fit to work (have ‘limited capability for work’) and so can get ESA (this rarely happens – most people have to fill in the capability for work questionnaire)

Bonus: ESA medical assessment questions

Claimants are also asked questions relating to their mental and physical health.

They use these descriptors to determine the level to which their disability or illness affects their ability to work.

Some ESA assessment of mental health questions include:

  • Do you know what you are here for?
  • What are your medical conditions?
  • How long have you had these conditions?
  • How do these conditions affect you?
  • Is there an upstairs or downstairs bathroom?
  • How often do you shop?
  • Do you do shopping on your own?
  • Do you drive?
  • Is the car automatic or manual?
  • How long can you drive for?
  • Do you have any hobbies or interests?

Some activities relating to the physical health assessment include:

  • Mobilizing and navigation.
  • Picking up and moving.
  • Manual dexterity.

ESA medical assessment points system

If an applicant scores 15 points in any individual activities (or a total of 15 points for a combination of the physical or mental activities) they’ve met the criterion for limited capability for work.

It’s at this stage the decision-maker will consider if it places the claimant in a support or limited capability for work-related activity group.

If a claimant scores below 15 points, they aren’t classes as having limited capability to work and so not entitled to ESA.

After the assessment, a professional healthcare assessor will pass on recommendations to someone at the DWP.

They’ll then use this information to decide if you get ESA or not.

From the ESA50 form to finish, the whole process can take as much as a year to receive a final decision.

If the DWP eventually decides a claimant isn’t eligible for ESA, claimants won’t have to pay the money already received back.

They’re also able to backdate claims for up to three months.


In this article, we answered a popular question: “Can I claim ESA for depression and anxiety?” 

The short answer is – yes, you can claim ESA for depression and anxiety. In fact, a majority of ESA claims are for stress, anxiety, and depression.

ESA is a payment you could get every 2 weeks to help with your living costs.

There are 2 types of ESA – called ‘contribution-based’ and ‘income-related’. You can be eligible for either, or both at the same time. 

If you are not eligible for ESA, check your other options. You might be eligible for Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.  

Please feel free to comment on the content and leave your questions in the comments section below. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

FAQ on Can I claim ESA for depression and anxiety?

What benefits can I claim for depression?

You can claim the following benefits for depression: Housing Benefit; Universal Credit; Council Tax Reduction; Personal Independence Payment; Employment and Support Allowance; Support for Mortgage Interest (if you’re entitled to income-related ESA).

Who is entitled to ESA allowance?

A person entitled to ESA allowance is a person who has a health condition that makes it difficult or impossible to work.

Is depression classed as a disability?

Depression is classed as a disability.

In the Social Security Administration (SSA) Impairment Listing Manual, or “Blue Book,” the condition is considered under Section 12.04 Affective Disorders.

Does anxiety qualify for ESA?

Anxiety can qualify for the ESA award, as well as other mental disability – such as depression, OCD, or other psychological disorders.

How many points do you need for the ESA support group?

You need to score 15 points or more to qualify for the ESA support group.

At the ESA assessment, you’re given 0, 6, 9 or 15 points for each activity.

How long can you claim ESA for?

You can claim contributory/new style ESA for up to 12 months if you are put in the Work-Related Activity Group.

If you are put in the Support Group there is no limit on how long you can receive it for.


  1. Social Security Legislation 2019/20 Volume I: Non-Means Tested Benefits and Employment and Support Allowance
  2. The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living 
  3. Reasons to Stay Alive
  4. Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions 
  5. Overcoming Depression – Get Happy Again: The Self-Help Workbook for Understanding Depression, Anxiety and Panic Attacks 
  6. Never Panic Just Pray: Anti-Anxiety Coloring Book: Say Goodbye to Stress, Depression and Anxiety: Amazing Coloring Book to Reduce Anxiety and Stress: Depression Remover Book 


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