Bipolar and disability

Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability Benefits

Bipolar Disorder - Condition

Historically known as Manic Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness characterized by cyclic mania, or periods of extreme euphoria followed by bouts of severe depression. This mental disorder is not a mood disorder alone, but a category of several mood disorders. It is a condition that is prevalent in both men and women.

The chances of getting disability for bipolar disorder is 2 out of every 3 applicants.

Is Bipolar a Disability?

Bipolar disorder can be considered a disability if you meet the work and medical requirements outlined in the Blue Book by the SSA.

For the SSA to consider your bipolar disorder as a disability, you will need to meet both the work and medial requirements. In order to meet the work requirements to qualify for disability, you will have to have earned enough work credits while working.

Work credits are calculated by your age and how long you have worked. Generally, you need 40 credits to get disability benefits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.

Once you meet the work requirements, you will also need meet the medical requirements outlined by the SSA for bipolar to be considered a disability. To qualify for SSA with bipolar disorder, your diagnosis and medical evidence to back it up needs to match the SSA’s Blue Book listing for bipolar disorder.

The SSA does consider bipolar a disability, so if you can match the SSA’s listing, as well as meet the work requirements, the SSA will considered you disabled and you can earn SSDI benefits with your bipolar disorder diagnosis.


Signs of the depressive phase of this mental illness include:

  • persistent feelings of hopelessness
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • guilt
  • sadness
  • isolation
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • lack of motivation
  • chronic pain
  • morbid suicidal ideation
  • self-loathing
  • depersonalization.


In severe cases, individuals suffering from this disorder can even become psychotic. Bipolar Disorder symptoms typically manifest sometime between childhood and late adolescence.

Ordinarily, a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is based on an individual’s self-reported experiences, along with behavioral abnormalities reported by friends, family members and colleagues. These indications are often corroborated by secondary symptoms observed by a social worker, psychiatrist, nurse or other clinicians involved in a clinical assessment.

Assessment of Bipolar Disorder is usually performed on an outpatient basis. An inpatient facility admission is usually only considered necessary if an individual poses a serious risk to his/herself or others. A preliminary assessment may consist of a physical examination by a doctor. Generally, examinations are not repeated for relapse cases unless there is indication of a specific medical need.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

If an individual’s Bipolar Disorder is constant and impairs all ability to function in a work environment, that person may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Any individual with Bipolar Disorder can be eligible for disability benefits if he/she meets the evaluation criteria listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, and if he/she has received a medical vocational disability endorsement based on the person's residual functional ability, education and age.

Impairments that Qualify for Bipolar Disorder Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration has established that a claimant with Bipolar Disorder must have a history of consistent symptomatic manic episodes, depressive syndromes, or a combination of both. Additionally, the claimant’s bipolar disorder should result in two (2) of the following restrictions:

  • severe limitation of daily activity,
  • inability to interact with others in a normal way, or
  • recurring episodes of decompensation, which last for an extended period of time.


If a claimant does not meet the aforementioned criteria, he/she may still qualify under a section in the Blue Book, which states that any individual with a medical history documenting at least two years of any chronic affective disorder, including Bipolar Disorder, can be granted disability benefits, despite the support of medication, if the impairment or ailment has resulted in:


  • limitations of the capacity to perform basic work action, even when symptoms are controlled with psychosocial support and medication.
  • the claimant’s condition must lead to persistent decompensation periods, or
  • the residual illness process has caused a subsidiary adjustment that even a nominal boost in mental demands would cause the claimant to decompensate.

Furthermore, a claimant must have been incapable of functioning outside a supportive livelihood for any foreseeable time period. If an individual meets or exceeds these qualifications, there is a good chance of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If a claimant still does not meet the aforementioned criteria, he may still apply for disability based on his remaining functional capacity, education and age. If mental residual functioning is very limited and one is not capable of meeting the demands of basic routine repetitive activities, it is still possible to qualify for a medical vocational disability allowance.

Because applying for disability benefits with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis can be a complex and intimidating process, hiring a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer or disability advocate may be in a potential claimant’s best interest.

Your Bipolar Disorder Disability Case

Because Bipolar Disorder is listed in the impairment listing manual of the Social Security Administration, a person with Bipolar Disorder who wishes to file for disability benefits can win by satisfying specific criteria. If you are planning to apply for SSDI/SSI disability benefits, you should bear in mind that all Social Disability claims will be granted or denied benefits based on medical records.

You should strive to keep a consistent treatment regimen before and during the Social Security Disability application process, and if your SSDI/SSI application is denied, you should be prepared to file a disability appeal. In many cases, a Social Security Disability lawyer or advocate can provide invaluable help by guiding you through the application and appeals processes.

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Is Bipolar a Disability? Your FAQs

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that helps people with disabilities get equal rights at work. Bipolar disorder is considered a disability under the ADA, just like blindness or multiple sclerosis.

You may also qualify for Social Security benefits if you can’t work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two programs that provide a monthly income and health insurance to people who can’t work because of a disability:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is for people with a limited income.

Read on to learn how the ADA and Social Security might benefit you.

To get protection under the ADA, you have to prove that a disability like bipolar disorder severely limits your ability to work. The ADA covers companies with 15 or more employees.

Getting Social Security benefits can be trickier. You need to have a disability and be a part of a low-income household or have worked for a certain number of years.

Not everyone with bipolar disorder qualifies. About two-thirds of applications for disability benefits are denied at first.

To get Social Security benefits, the SSA will ask you to show that:

  • you’ve lived with bipolar disorder for at least 1 year
  • your condition is severe enough to prevent you from doing your job or any other job
  • your disability will last for more than a year

To qualify for SSDI, you need to have worked at a job where you paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years.

The older you are, the more years you need to have worked. A 42-year-old must have worked for 5 years, while a 30-year-old only needs 2 years of work.

To qualify for SSI, you need to earn less than a certain amount of money. That amount varies by state. You also can’t have more than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 if you’re married).

The ADA prevents people who are disabled from being discriminated against at work. Your company can’t cancel a job offer or fire you because you have bipolar disorder.

You must be able to do the basic tasks your job requires, but you can ask for accommodations. Accommodations are changes to your schedule or responsibilities that make your job easier to do.

Examples of accommodations for people with bipolar disorder are:

  • a flexible schedule
  • extra breaks during the day
  • a desk organizer or planner
  • noise cancelling headphones
  • job coaching
  • a support animal

Under the ADA, you also have a right to privacy. You don’t have to tell your employer that you have bipolar disorder unless you want to share that information.

You can get Social Security disability benefits if your bipolar disorder is severe enough to prevent you from working or if it limits your ability to do your job.

Whether you can work depends on how severe your bipolar disorder is, and how much your symptoms affect your daily life.

Symptoms like mood swings, irritability, and trouble concentrating can make it harder to do many jobs.

In general, people with bipolar disorder have a harder time working than those who don’t. Between 30 and 60 percent never go back to work full time after their symptoms start.

It may be harder for you to work if you have:

  • severe bipolar disorder
  • frequent episodes of mania and/or depression
  • constant low-level depression
  • psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions

You’ll have an easier time keeping a job if you find one that you love, and you have good support.

The ideal job for bipolar disorder is one that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

In general, the best jobs for people with bipolar disorder:

  • are part time and have a flexible schedule
  • offer a lot of support
  • have a quiet, calm environment
  • provide an outlet to be creative

A vocational counselor can help you find a job that fits you. Having bipolar disorder may qualify you for free vocational rehabilitation services.

Both the ADA and SSA consider bipolar disorder a disability. That qualifies you to get extra protection and benefits under the law.

To start the process, talk with your doctor. You will need documents to prove to the government that bipolar disorder affects your ability to work.

To learn more about Social Security Disability benefits, visit SSA.

Faith and hope: how an Orthodox Christian woman with bipolar disorder lives

Due to illness, I lost hope in God for the first time

Now there are many jokes about “bipolar”. You open the Internet, it seems that every second person has this disorder. Such is the "fashionable" diagnosis. How about really?

- I dropped out of two colleges, graduated from the third with grief in half and tried three times to get a higher education, without success. I stayed at each workplace for an average of a month. She was in a psychiatric hospital. Got a disability. No, jokes about “fashionable bipolar” do not seem funny to me!

I have Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAD) type II - it is dominated by depressive periods, and manias are not very bright (they are called hypomanias - mild manias).

Depression can be of different depths, it's a spectrum. It happens that everything seems to be fine, but the head does not work, you have to deal with purely everyday things or kill time on the Internet. Such days are painful, you begin to blame yourself for being relaxed. It happens that you can’t even go outside, at best you sleep. Or you sit, swing, wander around the apartment. You don’t remember what was better, and you don’t believe that it will end.

This summer was very difficult. I did not feel alive and did not see the point in my torment.

“Everyone who is dear to me will die, I will die, why then all this?” - the sick mind told me. I was as if driven into a trap and from impotence could only cry. It was the first time in my life when, due to illness, I lost hope in God, and it was very scary.

I was in the hospital. Thanks to the doctors who were there and brought me out of this hell. In general, in depressive episodes, patients often have suicidal thoughts and intentions, and I am grateful to God that I never had them.

Depression in bipolar disorder is replaced by mania. People take out huge loans, spend a lot of money, drop everything and travel, engage in promiscuous sex - in the hospital I met girls who manifested their mania in this way.

I have hypomanias, they are easier - general excitement, a lot of ideas, creativity, passion, a lot of energy. But this is only in words everything is great, but in practice there are a lot of “buts”: you jump on top, nothing is brought to the end, one idea replaces another, and there is no result as such. Well, the ideas themselves are far from always adequate and realistic. For example, in my dacha I wanted to move a giant boulder that even my dad would not have lifted, and make a flower bed around it. I slept for a couple of hours, at night I came up with ideas for books and wrote notes, at dawn I walked with a camera. In this phase, I have a great need for communication, accelerated speech, a tendency to rash purchases.

Sometimes, if I feel like I'm going to be carried away, I give my bank card to my mother - "you'll return it in a week. "

I came to a psychiatrist by chance, and my confessor advised me to go to the hospital

How did it all start? Did something foreshadow illness?

– I had mood swings, trouble concentrating at school. And for the first time I got to a psychiatrist by accident. At the age of 16, something happened to my jaw, my mouth did not open completely, I got to the maxillofacial surgeons, and they treated me for six years: braces, plates, washing the joints. When they tried everything, they said: “In our department, nothing can hurt anymore, this is probably already psychosomatic.” And by the hand they took me to a psychiatrist. I was then 22 years old. I also read that some kind of trigger situation can trigger the disorder, and I experienced psychological abuse a couple of years earlier.

The following process was going on in parallel. I went to the temple since childhood, and at the age of 18–20 I almost stopped. Kind of a belated teenage rebellion. Much in the church (not in the faith!), began to confuse, it seemed a formality.

At some point, my mother began to think that my condition was due to the fact that I did not go to church. I began to go to the temple again, but then it became clear that these were just health problems.

The psychiatrist said that I had mild depression and prescribed an antidepressant. I drank it for only a few days, because because of it, as I later realized, I had a manic rise. The drug was changed, a few more “light” ones were added. But then I had a feeling that the pills made it worse. It was as if they opened some kind of floodgates inside me, and what was hiding inside broke out. And this is the worst thing for me - to lose control of myself.

Then I became interested in psychiatry and began to read articles and books. Self-diagnosis is a thankless task, but I decided that my condition was similar to cyclothymia. The doctor, oddly enough, confirmed my suspicions. Cyclothymia is, as it were, a mild form of bipolar disorder, when the amplitude of mood swings is less (and some experts consider it a variant of the norm).

I remember, during my first hospitalization, I read Masha Pushkina's book Bipolar People and thought, "poor people, how hard it is for them, it's good that I don't have this." But I myself had exactly “this”, they just “forgot” to tell me when I was discharged that they had diagnosed me with bipolar II disorder.

I thought that the pills were picked up, which means that everything is over and you can continue to live a normal life. I just have cyclothymia! A year later, when I was hospitalized for the second time, I already suspected that I had BAD, but again I was told about it only when I asked myself. So for sure I found out my diagnosis only two years ago.

Mental hospital and disability: not so scary?

People are usually very afraid of “going to a mental hospital”. What is it really like to be in a psychiatric hospital?

- Coming to a psychiatric hospital - what could be worse? I thought so too. From the first appointment at the clinic where I am now being observed, I was advised to be hospitalized. But my mother and I were not ready for this, stereotypes interfered, although we could not pick up pills on an outpatient basis.

Confessor helped me to decide on hospitalization. He said that the hospital is very good, you can take laptops and phones there: “If you lie down, watch a movie, everything will be fine,” and I agreed.

Before that, all I had heard about psychiatric hospitals was that they strip you down to your underpants, give you a hospital gown, and you go there for several months. Turns out it's not like that everywhere!

I am not in the acute department, but, one might say, in the lightest one. The situation there is like in a sanatorium or pioneer camp. The atmosphere is friendly, everyone communicates when someone leaves - they take pictures, hug, exchange contacts. There are a lot of teenagers there. There are restrictions, for example, there are no plugs in the dining room, but there are sockets in the wards, showers according to a schedule, walks according to a schedule and with the doctor’s permission, periodic “search” of things in the wards, you show everything that you brought from the street. Yes, it hurts you a little as a person, but you quickly get used to it.

Since mid-October I have had my first remission in a long time. Slowly I forget how bad it was in depression. When I remember - just God forbid back into it.

Mental disorders are the same diseases as physical ones. They are also from the word "pain". Only when the soul hurts, you can’t hide from it anywhere, and no painkiller will help.

Applying for disability due to mental illness is also a difficult step. Was it difficult to decide?

- I did not refuse this opportunity, because my parents are pensioners, I do not work, and the status of a disabled person gives me the right to free travel, medicines (and they now cost about 15,000 a month) and a pension - all this won't bother us.

Disability is registered through the district neuropsychiatric dispensary. You need to be observed there for at least six months, go to the local psychiatrist every month, so that the doctor sees that you really can neither work nor study. At the same time, I am treated by my doctor, and I am only observed in the PND. And then - a lot of papers and commissions.

Psychiatric disability does impose some limitations. They definitely won’t give permission for a weapon and, it seems, a driver’s license, but this is not at all relevant to me now.

Life with a diagnosis: resentment against God, then acceptance

And after you finally got the diagnosis, did something change in your life? Have new restrictions appeared or, on the contrary, has it become easier to live, knowing what is happening?

– I began to treat myself more carefully, to listen. I know where I can go and where I can't. Study, work - this is not for me yet.

Strangely enough, even though I know that I am sick, the feeling of guilt or “it just seems to me” does not disappear anywhere. You still blame yourself for everything, even when you have a diagnosis, disability and everything else.

When I first heard the diagnosis of bipolar disorder from a doctor, I was stunned. This is a terrible, difficult, life-long diagnosis! “What, does that change anything?” the doctor asked. And I realized, but really - no. The disease did not start a minute ago, in her words. I have been living with her for a long time. And somehow I manage. So, I can continue to cope, and nothing terrible has happened.

When the diagnosis was made, at some point there was resentment against God. I thought that the disease had robbed me of the life I dreamed of, cut off opportunities. But then I saw that it was the disease that helped me to open up, to become myself.

The diagnosis gave me the right to vote. I became part of the community and could now speak on its behalf and do something good, help, enlighten. When I found out about BAR, I had about 800 subscribers on my blog. And the first thing I did after calling my mom was to write a post about my bipolar disorder. Then I also wrote psycho-activist posts, and people reacted very interestedly, supported me. I realized that such a blog can be useful. But then I deleted everything. When I am severely depressed, it becomes uncomfortable for me that information about me is on the Internet. So I created and deleted many blogs already, but like a phoenix revived them from the ashes. I hope that the current blog will still be the last one.

I am also writing a book. This is an insider novel about the everyday life of a psychiatric hospital, which we look at through the eyes of a young patient diagnosed with bipolar disorder and bulimia. This is autofiction based on my experience, but the heroine is not me. In writing courses, they said that such a book is very necessary, I hope that everything will work out with it.

Of course, there are downsides to my position. For example, on medications, I gained 20 kilograms in just a couple of months and still have not come to terms with the “new” me. It is also very difficult to plan something with BAR: meetings, vacations, training courses, and so on. You never know when depression will hit you. Well, do not forget that bipolar disorder is considered one of the most dangerous mental illnesses.

Bipolar disorder is the 12th most common cause of disability in the world

Bipolar affective disorder (BAD) is a mental disorder characterized by alternating
patient's two phases of mood: manic (or
hypomanic) and depressive.
Such phases are called affective, that is, bearing signs of affect -
manifestation of emotions beyond control.
In the International Classification of Diseases ICD-11, bipolar disorder is distinguished I
type and bipolar disorder type II.
In case of BAD type I, during the course of the disease there are necessarily pronounced manic phases
, when the patient feels high spirits, motor
excitement, and acceleration of thinking. Behavior becomes impulsive and often
reckless. Until the 1990s, this type of disorder was known as manic-depressive psychosis.
In bipolar II patients, manic episodes are smoothed out, they are called hypomania
(mild mania), and the depressive phases are deeper and longer.
Bipolar disorder is the 12th most common cause of disability according to the World Health Organization. BAD is considered one of the most dangerous
mental illnesses. Between 20 and 60 percent of patients with bipolar disorder have attempted suicide.

Now I am learning to live with BAD, trying to be useful to society and people like me. This is a very important experience for me, this is my way, my voice and my way of talking to the world.

And what, besides drugs, helps to alleviate the condition?

– Psychotherapy helps a lot. I recently discovered it for myself, before I doubted it. Well, expensive, of course. Now I see the result, because most of the psychological problems that worsen my condition are not directly related to bipolar disorder. These are some kind of traps of thinking or everyday trifles when you poison your own life. Two things that run like a thread through my therapy are the inner critic and personal boundaries.

I also use an app on my phone, a mood diary. You mark the mood for the day, plus you can additionally enter your state or feelings - anxiety, drowsiness, and so on. This helps to notice the beginning deterioration or to trace the effect when changing drugs.

I also want to try support groups, I'm going to visit one at the Just People Foundation.

Depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia fund guide

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“You make everything up!”

Is it easy to relate to people with bipolar disorder? How do friends and relatives accept the diagnosis? Can they help with something or is it better not to touch a person when he feels bad?

- It's hard to communicate in the depressive phase, but friends know that if I "merge", it means that I'm just "not in the resource" at the moment. At normal times, I'm always happy to meet and chat. And you can help a depressed person in simple ways - bring groceries from the store, cook something, take a walk around the yard.

If a person has opened up to you, this is already a very big step for him. Try not to hurt him, do not devalue his problems.

In depression, a person sometimes does not have the strength even to brush his teeth, but this is not a reason to blame him. This is the most important thing for friends and family to remember - do not blame. The disease is not his fault, although outwardly it looks like laziness, or a person may seem rude or something else. It's hard and painful for him. He, like a sick person with a physical ailment, deserves compassion.

My relatives are very supportive. Mom is just a hero, she went through a lot with me. In the summer I was in the hospital for two months, and every day she came to walk with me in the hospital park for an hour. True, sometimes my mother says that I am her cross. And I don’t want to be a cross, I want to be support and support for my loved ones.

Faith and BAR

: “In the temple I can rest from the struggle”

How to live in the Church with BAR, isn't it hard to go to church, pray, fast?

– Due to BAD, sometimes I don't go to church for a month. It’s also hard for me in crowded places, so on Christmas and Easter, if I feel bad, I don’t go to the night service. I need to take medicine four times a day, so I don't go to the temple in the morning on an empty stomach. But I have a very understanding confessor. In general, I feel good in the temple, this is a place where, as if there is no time and you can pause, take a break from the eternal struggle with yourself, with the disease.

Otherwise, I'm not much different from other parishioners. I read prayer rules, when I can’t read, I listen. Progress works wonders, there are audio prayer books! There are usually no problems with fasting, food restrictions do not affect my mental health, but here, I think, this is an individual matter.

I try to understand and accept my limitations. For a long time I considered some weaknesses as sins, but then it turned out that you just need to come to terms with this.

I regard BAR as an experience, painful, difficult, but sent to me for something, and therefore necessary and necessary. It gives me a different vision of the world. But not in the moment, but when you step aside.

It's like a tattoo or wood carving. When you are depressed, you get a tattoo, it is painful and unpleasant, but when everything is over and you look at it from the side, you will see a drawing.

"Shameful questions about mental disability"

"Shameful questions about mental disability"

"Shameful questions about mental disability"

What is mental disability anyway? Is that a polite name for mental retardation?

Mental disability is a disability caused by a mental disorder.

Mental disorder in itself does not necessarily lead to disability. Mental disorders differ from each other: some do not last long and do not have serious consequences for the patient's life, while others become chronic and significantly change a person's life.

Disability is a social concept. It is assigned if, due to illness or injury, a person cannot (or can, but with difficulty) independently move, study, work and communicate. Panic attacks, depression, and in some cases schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder (BAD) may not affect the above abilities - in such cases there will be no basis for establishing disability.

Do people with mental disabilities understand that they have a mental disability?

Most people with a mental disability understand that they have been assigned a disability group. Some people with mental disorders do not understand that they are people with disabilities. But, as a rule, these are patients with a markedly reduced memory and intelligence (for example, with dementia), and in their case, a lack of understanding of their social status is the least of the problems.

How should you behave when you communicate with such a person?

A mental disorder will not necessarily be noticeable when communicating with a person. The same applies to disability. But if you know about the disability of the interlocutor or his relative, it is better to postpone inquiries about this until a closer acquaintance, so as not to create a situation in which everyone will be embarrassed.

It is also not worth asking why a healthy-looking person with a disability does not work. Chronic mental disorders often develop in people at a young or adult age. A person may appear to be physically healthy, but the decreased willpower and thought disturbances of schizophrenia, for example, impair the ability to work just like any other serious illness or injury.

Do people with mental disabilities understand that they have a mental disability?

Most people with a mental disability understand that they have been assigned a disability group. Some people with mental disorders do not understand that they are people with disabilities. But, as a rule, these are patients with a markedly reduced memory and intelligence (for example, with dementia), and in their case, a lack of understanding of their social status is the least of the problems.

What are the options for public policy in the world in relation to such people? What is the best approach?

One social assistance option is supported employment. Disability is not always associated with a complete loss of the ability to study or work. A person with a severe or chronic mental disorder involved in the labor process simultaneously trains social skills and experiences a sense of his own need, inclusion in society, which is important for the well-being of any person.

Does mental disability mean total disability?

No, it doesn't. Incapacity is a legal category that means a person's inability to direct their actions or understand their meaning. It requires proof in a special order - through a court session and a forensic psychiatric examination.

In itself, disability due to a mental disorder, even the first group, does not mean automatic deprivation of legal capacity. And not every person with a mental disability can be deprived of legal capacity.

Are people with mental disabilities dangerous?

Research shows that mentally ill patients are more likely to be victims of crime than criminals. Patients with mental disorders and those who have received a disability are a vulnerable social group that needs the protection and support of society, and not additional control of law enforcement agencies.

In itself, disability due to a mental disorder, even the first group, does not mean automatic deprivation of legal capacity. And not every person with a mental disability can be deprived of legal capacity.

How to offer help to a person with a mental disability without being intrusive?

As with other people, it is important to show your willingness to help.

Learn more