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Obtaining disability benefits for Bipolar Disorder

The SSA recognizes bipolar disorder as an impairment in its Blue Book under Section 12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders.


Can I qualify for disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes drastic shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar disorder vacillate between periods of extreme happiness and excitement and episodes of deep depression.

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Qualifying for disability benefits while suffering from Bipolar disorder. The SSA recognizes bipolar disorder as an impairment in its Blue Book under Section 12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders.

According to the World Health Organization, bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.

It affects approximately 5.7 million adults, both men and women and all ethnic and social groups. The median age of onset is 25, but the illness can begin in childhood or even the 40s and 50s.

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness.

There are two “poles” of mood, which is why the illness is called bipolar. Manic refers to periods when the individual feels “up” or excited and happy, while depressive defines the “down” periods when the individual feels hopeless or worthless.

There are four types of bipolar disorder, but each type is characterized by dramatic changes in mood, energy, and activity level, ranging from extremely happy and energized to very depressed.

  •   Bipolar I Disorder. In this type of bipolar disorder episodes last at least 7 days or periods with manic symptoms are so severe that hospital care is required. Depressive episodes may also occur, usually lasting at least 2 weeks.
  •    Bipolar II Disorder. This type is characterized by episodes of both depression and manic behavior, but symptoms are not as severe as in Bipolar I Disorder.
  •    Cyclothymic Disorder (or cyclothymia). This type of bipolar disorder is defined by numerous periods of hypomania (less severe episodes) and depressive symptoms that last at least 2 years (or one year for children and adolescents).
  •    Other Bipolar Disorders. This type is characterized by bipolar symptoms that don’t match the three categories above.

People with bipolar disorder experience periods of intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and exhibit unusual behaviors.

These “mood episodes” are radically different from behaviors typical for that person and do not follow a particular pattern. They may occur over weeks, months, or years, but differ from person to person and can become more or less severe.

Typical manic episode symptoms include:

  •   Excessive excitement or happiness
  •   Increased energy and less need for sleep
  •    Sudden changes in mood from being elated to irritable and angry
  •   Restlessness
  •   Rapid speech and poor concentration
  •   Impulsiveness and making unrealistic plans
  •   Displaying poor judgment
  •   Drug and alcohol abuse

A person experiencing a depressive episode may show:

  •   Deep sadness
  •    Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  •   Loss of energy
  •   Uncontrollable crying
  •   Trouble concentrating
  •   Trouble making decisions
  •   Irritability
  •   Lack of enjoyment in events, hobbies, etc. that were previously fun
  •   A need for more sleep or insomnia
  •   Changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or weight gain

Researchers are studying the causes of bipolar disorder and believe that genes, brain function and structure, and family history all play a role.

Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Two thirds of people with bipolar disorder have a close relative with bipolar disorder and children with a parent or sibling who is bipolar are more likely to develop the illness.

Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Bipolar Disorder. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!

If a doctor believes a patient might have bipolar disorder, they will do a complete psychiatric evaluation.

Diagnosis is based on the individual’s symptoms and ruling out other conditions. Speaking to family and friends can help a doctor determine if bipolar disorder or another condition is involved in a patient’s mood changes and behavior.

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Successful treatment can stabilize moods and provide symptom relief.

Though psychotherapy is often employed, medication is the main treatment for bipolar disorder. Tegretol, Lamictal, Depakote and lithium are among the most common mood stabilizers prescribed. Ongoing treatment has proven more effective than dealing with problems as they arise.

The Social Security Administration recognizes bipolar disorder as an impairment in its Blue Book under Section 12.04.

12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

A. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1 or 2:

  1.   Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
    1.   Depressed mood;
    2.    Diminished interest in almost all activities;
    3.   Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
    4.   Sleep disturbance;
    5.   Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
    6.   Decreased energy;
    7.   Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
    8.   Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
    9.   Thoughts of death or suicide.

  2.   Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:
    1.   Pressured speech;
    2.   Flight of ideas;
    3.   Inflated self-esteem;
    4.   Decreased need for sleep;
    5.   Distractibility;
    6.    Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
    7.   Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.

B. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):

  1.   Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
  2.    Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
  3.   Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
  4.   Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).

C. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:

  1.   Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
  2.   Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).

To qualify for SSDI on the basis of bipolar disorder:

  •    The disorder must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least 1 year
  •   You must provide more than one diagnosis of bipolar disorder
  •   You must prove that the disorder prevents you from working and meeting the demands of daily life

Two thirds of applicants are approved for benefits, but many only qualify on appeal.

If your medical records report periods in which you “feel better” be prepared to explain during an administrative hearing that you have periods of feeling good and periods of feeling bad and how frequently they occur.

If you have bipolar disorder, you may be eligible for Social Security disability or private long-term disability benefits.

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Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.

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