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obsessive compulsive disorderObsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD – it’s a term that most of us are familiar with, often because it is used in a humorous way (I.e. – That’s my OCD kicking in, or, I’m OCD about that). But OCD isn’t a joke, and certainly not when you are applying for life insurance.

OCD is a recognized medical condition, and has implications for a person’s future, as well as the risk that a life insurance company will associate with writing a policy. The risk is generally perceived to be higher for someone with OCD than it is for someone without it, and can sometimes rise to the level of a declined life insurance application.

Sometimes, but certainly not always.

What Is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, OCD is:

“…an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions). Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts. But this only provides temporary relief. Not doing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety and distress.”

Symptoms can include a combination of the following:

  • Obsessions or compulsions that are not due to medical illness or drug use
  • Obsessions or compulsions that cause major distress or interfere with everyday life
  • There are many types of obsessions and compulsions. These can be physically doing things (behaviors) or doing them in the head (mental acts). Examples include:
  • Checking and rechecking actions (such as turning out the lights and locking the door)
  • Excessive counting
  • Excessive fear of germs
  • Repeatedly washing the hands to ward off infection
  • Repeating words silently
  • Praying silently over and over

The exact cause of OCD is not well understood, but is believed that head injury, infections, or abnormal function in certain areas of the brain could be factors, as well as genetics. Typically, the symptoms will show up in the patient by age 30. In addition, the patient is usually aware that he or she has these symptoms, but is unable to control them.

Treatment includes a mix of medication (usually antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic drugs) and behavioral therapy, as well as talk therapy. This involves repeatedly exposing the patient to situations that trigger obsessive thoughts and behaviors, and effort to gradually increase the patient’s ability to tolerate the distress and to avoid compulsive behavior.

Though complete elimination of the syndrome is rare, treatment has been shown to be effective over the long term. Fortunately, there is little evidence to indicate that OCD leads to other mental health issues.

How Does OCD Affect an Application For Life Insurance?

Just as is the case with virtually any other type of pre-existing condition, your ability to get life insurance with OCD will depend upon a number of factors including:

  • How much time has passed since the initial diagnosis
  • The extent of your condition – mild, moderate, or severe
  • Medications (if any) that you are taking, and how compliant you are in doing so
  • How regularly you are getting medical help
  • Whether or not you have seen a psychiatrist
  • Whether or not you have ever had electroshock therapy
  • Thoughts of suicide, or any attempts at suicide
  • If you have ever required hospitalization as a result of OCD

The life insurance company will follow all the normal procedures in processing your application. This will include conducting a physical, which is generally conducted in your home or place of work, and will monitor the basics, such as height, weight and blood pressure, as well as taking blood and urine samples. None of this is likely to reveal that you have OCD, but the insurance company will also request physicians statements, that will reveal your previous medical history.

As is the case with any type of medical history, it’s always best that you disclose OCD on your application. There are simply too many ways that the insurance company can verify the true state of your medical condition. As an example, the company can do a prescription database search to see what type of medications you have been prescribed in the past. If that reveals medication taken for OCD, your application is likely be rejected because of your lack of disclosure of your condition.

In many cases, you may receive a standard risk assessment despite having OCD. This won’t get you the best rates on life insurance, but they will allow you to purchase life insurance at a reasonable premium.

In a worst-case scenario, you could be given a guaranteed issue policy. That’s the kind of policy that will be based on your age, and approval will be guaranteed. There is no medical exam or health questions required for this kind of policy either. There are however a couple of limitations. Because medical condition is not a factor, the premium rate per thousand dollars of coverage will be higher than it is for ordinary life insurance. You will also be limited in the amount of the death benefit, generally to not more than $30,000. Guaranteed issue policies also typically contain a waiting period on payment of the death benefit. Benefits will not be paid out at any time during the first two years that the policy is in force.

It’s not a perfect life insurance solution, but it’s certainly better than no life insurance coverage at all.

The Affect of OCD on Your Life Insurance Premiums

Though it is unlikely that you will get preferred rates if you have OCD, as noted above, you may qualify for standard rates if your condition is mild or moderate.

That may be the case if you’re only taking a single medication and have no history of hospitalization or suicide attempts related to OCD.

Exactly what your premium rates will be will depend on a number of factors, as well as the company that you are making application with. If you have OCD, it’s much better if you do not attempt to try and get a life insurance policy on your own.

What It Takes to Get an Affordable Policy With OCD

If you have OCD, there are two factors that are important in regard to your life insurance application: approval and premium rate. For this reason, you will need to have the assistance of a life insurance professional, particularly one who has plenty of experience in obtaining life insurance for people who have pre-existing conditions.

In the insurance world, not all companies view all health conditions in the same light. In the case of OCD, some may consider it to be an automatic decline. Others will approve the policy with a significant rate adjustment, while still others will accept policies with only minor increases in basic premium rates. The key is to know which companies take the most favorable view of OCD, and have the most affordable premiums. A competent life insurance professional will know exactly this. That will not only save you premium dollars, but will also save you the time that you will waste applying to companies who will never approve your policy, or will do so at ridiculously high rates.

If you have OCD, you also need to do your part to make sure that you’re the best candidate possible for life insurance. This will include some or all of the following:

  1. Do your best to lead a stable life – that includes your personal life, your family life, and your professional life
  2. Make sure that you are healthy in every other way, and that especially includes your overall physical health; you need to avoid representing multiple risks to an insurance company
  3. Be sure to stay current with any therapy related to your OCD, that includes regular doctor visits, taking required medication, or any other prescribed therapies
  4. Be sure to disclose your OCD and any other medical conditions that you have to your agent – he can only help you if he knows what those conditions are

Do your best to take care of what you can, and let your agent worry about which companies to apply to. Your proactive behavior, in combination with your agents ability to navigate the life insurance maze, should get you the coverage that you need at a rate that you can afford.

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prescription medicineTaking prescription medications has become so common that most of us may not give it a second thought. But if you’re applying for life insurance, you can be sure that the insurance company won’t have the same casual view. There are certain risks associated with the use of prescription medications that can affect if you can get approved for life insurance, and often at what rate.

Here are the reasons why…

Too Many Meds – Is Too Many Meds

These days, it is not at all unusual for people to be on multiple prescription medications. They might be taking one prescription to deal with a respiratory condition, two to deal with hypertension, one to deal with shoulder pain, and still another to deal with digestive issues.

While each of these medications may be justified on an individual basis, an insurance company will be concerned with the number of medications that an applicant is taking. The company could take the position that the different medications are each designed to treat a symptom of a greater but undiscovered underlying health condition.

In addition, some doctors – and their patients – seek out a prescription as a first and only solution to a given medical condition. But in many circumstances, lifestyle changes will be an even more effective remedy. An excessive number of medications could be an indication that you are relying primarily on prescriptions to improve your health, rather than being proactive in making necessary lifestyle changes.

Negative drug interactions are yet another concern. Though any single medication that you are taking may be completely safe by itself, drugs can sometimes interact with other medications that you are taking, and cause complications. If you have a long history of taking multiple medications, it may be just a question of time before such a negative interaction will occur. And while many of these problems can be cured simply by removing the offending medication, some interactions are so serious that they result in death.

Prescriptions Aren’t Being Monitored and Regularly Updated

Many people go on a prescription medication early in life, and then continue taking the medication forever. The problem with this type of regimen is that the effectiveness of a medication will change over time, due to age, changing health circumstances, advancement (or retraction) of the health condition, or even a change in weight or physical activity.

For these reasons, you must be closely monitored any time you’re on any type of prescription medications. Failure to do so could increase the chance that the medication itself will eventually become a problem.

Sometimes this is a result of a physician who does a whole lot more prescribing than un-prescribing. And sometimes it’s because patients have a way of getting the desired prescription, and then not coming back to the doctor on a regular basis.

Few prescription medications are ever an absolute cure-all. They must usually be taken in conjunction with other therapies, including lifestyle changes, in order to be completely effective. And that effectiveness can only be determined through constant monitoring.

It could well be that you are on one or more prescription medications that are now completely unnecessary. And if such is the case, the medication could be doing you more harm than good. A life insurance company will not overlook any of these factors.

Adverse Side Effects

If you spend much time watching TV, and seeing a the hundreds of commercials for prescription medications that come on every day, you’ve probably heard the long list of potential adverse side effects that can come from taking any one of them. Side effects on just about any medication run the gamut, from skin rashes and watering eyes, to cancer and death.

While you as a patient may ignore these potential side effects in hopes of being cured of your condition, a life insurance company does not have the same luxury. Since at least one of the adverse side effects of many, many prescription medications is death, the more medications that you are on, the greater the risk to the life insurance company will be.

Life insurance companies are also aware that use of certain prescription medications can even be the cause of a new illness or condition. This is why life insurance companies must consider not only the medications that you are on, but the combinations and their potential risks. Any one of them holds the potential to force a life insurance company to do the one thing that it doesn’t want to do, and that’s to pay a death claim.

Using Medications For Other Than the Recommended Purpose

Prescription of medications are sometimes used for purposes other than that which has been recommended by the manufacturer. For example, a person could be on a medication that treats digestive issues, when in fact they’re using it instead for weight control.

This is not entirely unusual since many prescription medications are reclassified for other purposes after the fact. But if you are using a drug for a purpose other than that which the manufacturer has created it for, the life insurance company could have an issue with it.

The life insurance company is very likely to give you a higher risk rating for the health condition that the medication is designed to treat. <em>It will not matter that you don’t actually have that condition, <strong>they will see the medication as evidence that you do.</strong></em> For this reason, you should be very careful about medications you are using, and the specific purposes that you are using them for.

Don’t Get Caught In THIS Trap

In an attempt to receive a better rating, and a lower premium, applicants for life insurance will often attempt to avoid disclosing certain health conditions, or the prescription medications they are taking in order to treat them. But you can be virtually certain that the insurance company will be able to determine any medications that you are taking, and then assume that you have the underlying condition that they are designed to treat.

The life insurance company only needs to do a prescription database search, and they will know what type of medications you’ve been taking in the past and when. That will represent the starting point for a deeper search into any type of health condition that you are attempting to avoid disclosing.

It’s far better that you fully disclose any medications that you are taking, as well as any medical conditions that you are or have been treated for in the past. Your life insurance agent is a professional (that would be me!), and will know the best ways to deal with whatever conditions that you have. Let him or her (or me) know exactly what’s going on, and then go with the recommendations as the best way to proceed in getting your life insurance policy for the best possible premium rate.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

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