Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability

Bipolar Disorder can be a frustrating and challenging condition to live with. The emotional ups and downs that are caused by Bipolar Disorder are enough to leave anyone's head spinning. Some days you may be able to climb mountains. Other days it's impossible to even get yourself out of bed. Unfortunately, this mental roller coaster can interfere with an individual's ability to maintain employment and the resulting financial stress can be devastating. In some cases, Social Security Disability benefits may be able to help. If you or someone you know is suffering from Bipolar Disorder and the condition has interfered with your ability to work, the following information can help you understand the Social Security Disability claim process and how the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews disability claims based on a Bipolar Disorder condition.

Bipolar Disorder - Condition and Symptoms

Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder, is a serious mental illness that results in cycles of mania and depression. One day a bipolar individual may be “up”, feeling as though they can conquer anything and tackling numerous tasks. The next day they may be “down”, feeling as though the world has nothing to offer them and falling into a deep state of depression. How long the cycles last and how frequently they occur depend on the severity of the condition.

Individuals with Bipolar Disorder suffer from a number of symptoms. The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person, but common signs of Bipolar Disorder include a cycling of “up and down” moods. When the bipolar individual is “up” they will experience feelings of euphoria, irritability, delusions of grandeur, insomnia, rapid talking, racing thoughts, easy distraction, reckless behavior and, in severe cases, hallucinations and delusions. In the depressive state the symptoms will change to feelings of fatigue, anxiety, hopelessness, anger, sorrow, self-loathing, phantom pain and even suicidal thoughts.

Bipolar Disorder usually develops sometime between childhood and the latter part of adolescence, although the onset can technically occur at any age. When diagnosing Bipolar Disorder a psychiatrist will conduct a diagnostic exam. Patients will usually need to answer a questionnaire that will help the doctor evaluate the symptoms that the individual is experiencing. While there are not currently any laboratory tests that can diagnose a Bipolar Disorder condition, the Mood Disorder Questionnaire is often used to evaluate an individual who is experiencing the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

There is currently no cure for Bipolar Disorder, although symptoms can be managed with a combination of psychotherapy and prescription medications. Oftentimes doctors will prescribe a “cocktail” of medications to help manage the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. It is important to understand, however, that these medications cannot completely prevent the mood cycles associated with the condition. It can only reduce the frequency and severity of the cycles that the person experiences.

Filing for Social Security Disability with Bipolar Disorder

The SSA publishes a list of disabling impairments that it refers to when an individual applies for Social Security Disability benefits. This listing of impairments is known as the “Blue Book” and Bipolar Disorder is a condition listed within this publication.

Bipolar Disorder is covered under Listing 12.04 A3 of the SSA’s Blue Book. Under these guidelines, an individual who has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder must have a documented history of manic and depressive episodes and must currently be suffering from the mood cycles associated with the condition. You must also be able to prove that your condition prevents you from performing substantial gainful work activity. This is why it is important to discuss the limitations you are experiencing when talking with your doctor and psychiatrist at your regularly-scheduled visits.

Bipolar Disorder and Your Social Security Disability Case

Because Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder, it can be hard to prove the severity of the condition in terms of medical documentation. Because of this, getting approved for Social Security Disability benefits may be difficult. The SSA only approves about 30 percent of the initial applications received each year. If your claim for Social Security Disability benefits is one of the 70 percent that is denied during the initial stage of the application process, you will need to file an appeal in order to receive the disability benefits you need.

If you are looking to file for disability benefits or have already been denied, it may be in your best interests to consult with a Social Security Disability attorney before doing so. A qualified attorney can review your claim for Social Security Disability benefits and may help you gather any additional documentation needed to prove your disability case. He or she will also be able to represent you during the hearing stage of the appeal process. Statistics show that applicants who have legal representation at the hearing stage of the Social Security Disability appeals process are more likely to be awarded disability benefits.

While applying for Social Security Disability benefits may be challenging, if your Bipolar Disorder is so severe that it prevents you from working then you are entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Many of the people who live with Bipolar Disorder have filed successful claims for disability payments from the SSA.