Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability?

Bipolar Disability Benefits

Whether bipolar disorder is considered a disability depends on numerous factors, including the severity of the condition, the specific symptoms that a person experiences, and how their condition impacts their ability to perform daily activities.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s life and ability to function. The impact of bipolar disorder can vary but has the potential to disrupt numerous aspects of a person’s life, such as work, education, and relationships. 

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, previously referred to as manic depression, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings that include episodes of mania or hypomania (elevated mood) followed by episodes of depression.

The types of bipolar disorder recognized in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is widely used for diagnosing mental health conditions, are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder involves the presence of one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes, typically accompanied by depressive episodes. 
  • Bipolar II Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder involves the presence of one or more major depressive episodes and at least one hypomanic episode.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder involves chronic, fluctuating mood disturbances characterized by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms, but not meeting the criteria for a full manic or major depressive episode. 
  • Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar Disorders: These categories are used for individuals who do not meet the criteria for any of the above types of bipolar disorder. However, they still experience significant mood symptoms consistent with a bipolar or related disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary in severity and the duration of manic and depressive episodes. Some common symptoms of each episode include: 

Manic Episodes:

  • Increased energy and activity levels
  • Elevated or irritable mood
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Grandiosity or inflated self-esteem
  • Racing thoughts or rapid speech
  • Reduced ability to concentrate


  • Persistent sadness or low mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight 
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Aches or pains without a clear physical cause
  • Decreased libido or loss of interest in sex

Can You Get Disability Benefits for Bipolar Disorder?

In some cases, people with bipolar disorder may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. This depends on the severity of their medical condition and other factors. 

The process for obtaining bipolar disability benefits involves applying through federal programs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees two disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

Both programs offer financial assistance for disabling conditions, including bipolar disorder. They require applicants to provide evidence that their condition meets the criteria for disability as defined by the SSA. 

Both SSI and SSDI programs require applicants to demonstrate their condition will prevent them from working or earning an income for at least 12 months. For someone with bipolar disorder, they include their difficulties keeping a job if their manic or depressive episodes interfere with their ability to concentrate, make sound decisions, or complete tasks, for example. 

Bipolar disorder is listed in section 12.04 of the SSA’s Blue Book, the agency’s comprehensive guidebook for disabling conditions. Eligibility for the  SSDI program requires that a person has paid enough in Social Security taxes and has enough work credits. Since SSI is a needs-based program, applicants instead need to meet a minimum income and assets threshold.

How to Apply for Bipolar Disorder Disability

Applying for bipolar disorder disability benefits generally involves several steps, including the following: 

  • Gather necessary documentation: Collect relevant medical records, documentation of diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder, and any other evidence that supports your claim. This may include medical records from psychiatrists, psychologists, or other healthcare providers who have treated you for bipolar disorder.
  • Review eligibility requirements:  When applying for disability benefits, it’s important to carefully read and ensure you understand the eligibility criteria for the programs that you plan to apply for. Familiarizing yourself with the eligibility requirements can increase your chances of approval and prevent unnecessary delays or denials in the application process.
  • Complete and submit an application: Submit your completed application and any required documentation to the appropriate government agency or office. Depending on the specific program, this may be done online, by mail, or in person. 

You can also visit the SSA’s website to apply and check other necessary details. You can also go to one of the SSA’s local offices or call 1-800-772-1213 for further resources or to apply for disability benefits for bipolar disorder. 

SSD Benefits Denied? Contact Attorney Rod Deus

If your application was denied, there may be several reasons for the decision.  If that happens, you may want to contact an experienced disability lawyer in Louisiana. They can guide you through the application and appeals process and help you understand your legal options.

Schedule a free consultation by calling 504-588-9123 to learn more about your disability claim process.

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