What does it mean to be disabled under the Social Security guidelines? Disability can show its face in many different ways. It can be a physical problem and it can also be a psychological problem. There are people who are disabled because they suffer from anxiety and depression. There are also people who are disabled because they have heart conditions, pulmonary conditions, or orthopedic conditions. So being disabled is really anything that prevents you from engaging in what is called substantial gainful activity – or actual work.