Bipolar disorder – sometimes known as “manic depression” – is a disorder of the brain. People with this disorder will often experience extreme shifts in levels of activity, mood and energy. Such extremes are referred to as manic and depressive episodes. Out of all bipolar disorder cases, 83% are classified as severe.
Most cases of Bipolar Disorder go undiagnosed throughout childhood and teen years, leaving most diagnoses to be delayed and without medical treatment until well into adulthood. If untreated, this can be a dangerous disorder, as many people who suffer from this condition can experience suicidal thoughts during depressive episodes, and can engage in risky behavior during manic episodes.
Applying for SSDI: Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Treatments
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are typically extreme shifts in an individual’s mood. One day, for example, a person might feel the happiest they have ever been, become very hyperactive, have severe racing thoughts, or participate in seriously risky behavior. Weeks or even days later, their mood might dramatically shift to feelings of despair, hopelessness, severe depression and irritability.
For people with “bipolar II disorder,” fully manic episodes are absent, but hypomanic episodes occur (possibly including somewhat less bothersome symptoms such as decreased need for sleep, some irritability, increased energy, and rapid speech). Many people with bipolar II disorder are capable of being very productive and successful during hypomanic episodes.
Treatment for bipolar disorder will vary based on the type of bipolar you are diagnosed with, such as Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, or Cyclothymic, as they are described by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5)
It is believed that bipolar disorder is genetic or genetically triggered when paired with environmental factors. Treatments are different for each person. Most treatment plans include psychotherapy and prescribed medication (appropriate medications can vary greatly depending on the person’s situation, their other medications, and what has worked for them in the past). Both treatments are typically thought to be useful in reducing the severity of bipolar symptoms and in the prevention of relapse.
Unfortunately, not everyone will experience positive results from typical treatments. Some people will be prescribed less common treatments, such as modern electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which is considered very effective but may not work for everyone. ECT reverses certain mental health symptoms by changing the brain chemistry that causes them.
Does Bipolar Disorder Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?
Bipolar Disorder is discussed in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” listing of disabling conditions, in Section 12 (Mental Disorders) under paragraph 12.04 (Depressive, bipolar and related disorders). Remember, though, you do not need to meet or equal a listing in order to be found disabled.
Many people are able to manage their bipolar symptoms with proper treatment and achieve a relatively standard way of life, to be productive and enjoy time spent with friends and family. At the end of the day, what the SSA generally cares about most is whether or not your Bipolar Disorder meets certain requirements, including:
- That it rises to the level of a “severe impairment”, meaning it impacts your ability to do work;
- That it, combined with any other impairments you may have, prevent you from sustaining work;
- That it has affected you, or is expected to affect you, for at least one year (or to result in death).
If that is the case, then you may very well qualify for monthly disability benefits.
If treatments only minimize your symptoms, and your symptoms are still quite severe, this could very well prevent you from working well with others, stop you from being able to get out of bed some days, or restrict your ability to concentrate enough to do your job. Factors like these could potentially qualify you for disability benefits. In many cases, bipolar disorder is one of multiple conditions that causes an individual to be disabled.
If you or a loved one have Bipolar Disorder and are considering a claim for disability benefits, we recommend you read our articles about the process of applying for SSDI and the way the Social Security Administration uses their Sequential Evaluation Process to determine disability.
This article was previously published on the Citizens Disability website and is presented for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Medical decisions (including whether to start, stop, or modify any treatment plan) are extremely important and should always be made with the advice and counsel of a qualified medical professional.