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Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability? Can I Get Benefits?

Is bipolar disorder a disability? If the condition is impacting your day-to-day life, you may be wondering if bipolar disorder is classified as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and whether or not you can claim benefits. Grasping the technicalities of this issue can be tough, and it’s difficult to determine which information is factual. Here are some facts about bipolar disorder and disability, including what kind of support to expect if you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’re wondering whether bipolar disorder is a disability that qualifies you for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may be having trouble working and earning money because of your condition. This doesn’t mean that you are disabled – or even that bipolar disorder is classified as a disability. In this context, the term "disability" simply means that you have the right to be protected in the field of work because of your condition.

Bipolar disorder is one of the many conditions covered by the ADA. However, this does not mean you are automatically entitled to benefits. This law is designed to protect people with bipolar disorder and other qualifying disabilities from discrimination in hiring, promotions, work, pay and benefits. Under the ADA, bipolar disorder is a protected disability, which might mean that your employer has to make special allowances for you at work, such as letting you take regular breaks or permitting you to work from home. Your employer also has a right to deny these accommodations if they would cause the company undue hardship.

Many people manage to work with bipolar disorder, but it does depend on the intensity and frequency of their symptoms. If you feel you are unable to work because of your condition, you may be entitled to social security benefits.

Is Bipolar Disorder a Protected Disability, and Can You Claim Benefits?

So, is bipolar disorder a disability when it comes to social security benefits? The answer largely depends on your symptoms. According to the ADA, to receive benefits for a mental health disorder, you must meet the following requirements in sections A and B, or those in section C.

Section A requirements include medically documented evidence of the following symptoms:

Depression

  • Appetite changes with weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in almost all activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Agitation
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hallucinations, delusions or paranoia
  • Thoughts of suicide

Mania

  • Hyperactivity
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Distractibility
  • Involvement in risky behavior or activities
  • Racing thoughts, flight of ideas
  • Pressure of speech
  • Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking

Section B requires that you have bipolar disorder with a history of episodes of mania and depression “manifested by the full symptomatic picture.” In other words, you must have all or most of the symptoms listed above.

Under section B, you should also be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Restrictions of daily activities
  • Difficulty maintaining social functioning
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Repeated episodes of extended decompensation (the failure to generate psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress, resulting in personality disturbances)

Section C requires documented history of a chronic affective disorder lasting at least two years. This illness should have caused “more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities.” You should also be taking medication or receiving psychosocial support for one or more of the following:

  • Repeated episodes of decompensation
  • A process of recovery that would be worsened by even a minimal increase in mental demands
  • History of one or more years’ inability to function outside of a highly supportive living arrangement.

Bipolar and Disability: Final Thoughts

As you can see, the question of whether bipolar disorder is a disability does not always have a simple answer. Social Security has a whole raft of special rules that apply to those claiming benefits for mental health issues, and they will not always award disability benefits to people with severe mental health conditions. Bipolar disorder is, however, a protected disability under the ADA, so you have the right not to be discriminated against at work and to apply for reasonable accommodations.

If you’re looking to claim benefits for bipolar disorder, you should work closely with your doctors, therapist, psychiatrist and attorney to prepare your application carefully.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, May 27). Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability? Can I Get Benefits?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-information/is-bipolar-disorder-a-disability-can-i-get-benefits

Last Updated: May 30, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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