Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability

There is a common misconception that bipolar disorder is a rare condition, but this is not the case. The effects of bipolar disorder are widespread, as nearly 5.7 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder annually. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a disorder resulting in mania and depression. This disease is referred to as a psychotic mental disorder, and in certain cases, individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder may be eligible for social security disability benefits.


Social Security Benefits with Bipolar Disorder?


Bipolar disorder can have debilitating effects on an individual. Those who struggle with bipolar disorder may suffer from rapid thoughts, hyperactivity, and poor judgment. Unfortunately, in most cases, those who suffer from bipolar disorder are not eligible to receive social security disability benefits. To qualify for social security disability benefits for bipolar disorder you must be unable to function at a high enough level to hold an unskilled job (while on medication), or you must meet the Social Security Administration’s requirements in their mood disorders listing.


The Social Security Administration mandates that an individual must have been diagnosis with bipolar disorder by a physician and must have had a history of both mania and depression. Additionally, an individual must suffer from at least three of the following:


  • Hyperactivity;
  • Rapidly changing thought patterns;
  • Frenzied Speech;
  • Insomnia;
  • Loss of Focus;
  • Overconfidence;
  • Delusions and paranoid thoughts;
  • Excessive risk taking behavior.


In addition to the symptoms above, the Social Security Administration says you must also suffer from four of the following to be eligible for social security benefits for bipolar disorder:


  • Difficulty thinking;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Suicidal Thoughts;
  • Feelings of guilt;
  • Weight loss or weight gain;
  • Lack of interest in activities that you previously enjoyed;
  • Difficulty performing physical activities.


Finally, in conjunction with the two previous categories, the social security administration states that an individual must also suffer from at least two of the following issues:


  • Inability to maintain social function;
  • Severe restriction of daily living activities;
  • Episodes of decompensation;
  • Severe difficulty concentrating.


Alternatively, if you are unable to work and your bipolar disorder has persisted for at least two years, then you may be eligible for social security benefits as long as you also suffer from one of the following:


  • Frequent episodes of decompensation;
  • A history of at least one year where you are unable to function outside of a highly structured and supportive environment;
  • A present state where a change in environment or cognitive demands results in additional decompensation.


It should also be noted that since bipolar disorder is closely associated with depression, certain individuals may be eligible for social security disability benefits for depression instead. This typically only applies to individuals with severe depression and hypomania—which is a mild form of mania.


What if I do Not Qualify?


If you do not qualify for bipolar disorder benefits based on the criteria above, there are still alternatives available. In certain instances, the Social Security Administration may evaluate your symptoms on an individual basis. An examiner may review your symptoms and decide how limited you are in your ability to work. This means that your memory, ability to follow directions, attention to detail, and social skills may be evaluated.  Following this evaluation, the examiner will assign you with a mental residual functional capacity that will rate what kind of work you can do.


If the Social Security Administration determines that you are able to do any level of work, including unskilled work, then you will be ineligible for social security disability benefits.  On the other hand, if you do not meet the criteria listed above, and the Social Security administration determines you are incapable of doing unskilled work, you may be eligible to receive a medical vocational allowance. However, it should be noted that being unable to perform unskilled work and not meeting the above criteria is exceedingly rare.


Contact Us


If you or someone you know is suffering from the debilitating effects of bipolar disorder or depression, you may have many unanswered questions. An experienced social security attorney can help answer those questions and put your worry to rest. For more information contact the attorneys at Krasno, Krasno, & Onwudinjo today!

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