Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by periods of extreme euphoria followed by periods of extreme depression, called cyclic mania. It is considered a mood disorder, and it affects men and women equally. Bipolar disorder presents constant symptoms and can impair an individual who suffers from it from being able to work in any environment; as a result, disability benefits through Social Security are available to people who qualify on the basis of their bipolar disorder.
Social Security Administration (SSA) includes bipolar disorder in its Blue Book listings of requirements you must meet to qualify for disability benefits, either through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). First, you must be diagnosed with the disorder from a qualified medical practitioner, and your condition must be severe enough that you cannot work in order to be found eligible for benefits.
Unfortunately, there are no medical tests that can be performed to determine if someone has bipolar disorder; therefore, it is extremely important that you maintain a relationship with your psychiatrist or psychologist so that he or she can back up the claims in your disability application with medical records.
To qualify for benefits under the listings, you must have a history of consistent manic episodes symptomatic of bipolar disorder, depressive symptoms, or a combination of both. Your bipolar disorder should also result in two of the following restrictions: 1) inability to interact with others in a normal way; 2) recurring episodes of decompensation that last for an extended period of time; or 3) severe limitations of daily activities.
You must also exhibit at least three of the following symptoms: 1) inflated self-esteem, usually with false beliefs; 2) decreased need for sleep; 3) quickly changing ideas and thought patterns; 4) distractibility; 5) unnaturally fast speech that is often frenzied; 6) increase in physical agitation; or 7) involvement in risky activities with painful consequences that are not anticipated.
There is a variant of bipolar disorder known as bipolar disorder II. People who suffer from this kind of bipolar disorder do not experience periods mania or depression that are as extreme, so they may have more difficulty meeting the listings. However, they may be able to qualify under the listings for depression if their periods of depression are severe enough.
Although conditions that cannot be decisively proven through medical testing can be trickier to qualify under, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of being approved for disability benefits as a result of your bipolar disorder. First, maintain any course of treatment you are given because non-compliance can result in denial of benefits. To show how your condition affects your life, keep a detailed journal with notes on how you feel every day and record any unusual things that you can’t do on a given day.
Additionally, you should keep a detailed list of all your current and past medications and ask your doctor to keep track of the course of your symptoms, along with any evidence of forgetfulness, fatigue, unusual behavior, or irritability. You should also document how your bipolar disorder affected you while you were working.