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Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability

Bipolar Disorder - Condition and Symptoms

Historically known as Manic Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness characterized by cyclic mania, or periods of extreme euphoria followed by bouts of severe depression. This mental disorder is not a mood disorder alone but a category of several mood disorders. It is a condition that is prevalent in both men and women.

Signs of the depressive phase of this mental illness include persistent feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, anger, guilt, sadness, isolation, fatigue, irritability, lack of motivation, chronic pain, morbid suicidal ideation, self-loathing and depersonalization. In severe cases, individuals suffering from this disorder can even become psychotic. Bipolar Disorder symptoms typically manifest sometime between childhood and late adolescence.

Ordinarily, a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis is based on an individual’s self-reported experiences, along with behavioral abnormalities reported by friends, family members and colleagues. These indications are often corroborated by secondary symptoms observed by a social worker, psychiatrist, nurse or other clinicians involved in a clinical assessment.

Assessment of Bipolar Disorder is usually performed on an outpatient basis. An inpatient facility admission is usually only considered necessary if an individual poses a serious risk to his/herself or others. A preliminary assessment may consist of a physical examination by a doctor. Generally, examinations are not repeated for relapse cases unless there is indication of a specific medical need.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

If an individual’s Bipolar Disorder is constant and impairs all ability to function in a work environment, that person may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Any individual with Bipolar Disorder can be eligible for disability benefits if he/she meets the evaluation criteria listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book, and if he/she has received a medical vocational disability endorsement based on the person's residual functional ability, education and age.

The Social Security Administration has established that a claimant with Bipolar Disorder must have a history of consistent symptomatic manic episodes, depressive syndromes, or a combination of both. Additionally, the claimant’s bipolar disorder should result in two (2) of the following restrictions: severe limitation of daily activity, inability to interact with others in a normal way, or recurring episodes of decompensation which last for an extended period of time.

If a claimant does not meet the aforementioned criteria, he/she may still qualify under a section in the Blue Book which states that any individual with a medical history documenting at least two years of any chronic affective disorder, including Bipolar Disorder, can be granted disability benefits if the impairment or ailment has resulted in limitations of the capacity to perform basic work action even when symptoms are controlled with psychosocial support and medication. Even with support and medication, the claimant’s condition must lead to persistent decompensation periods, or the residual illness process has caused a subsidiary adjustment that even a nominal boost in mental demands would cause the claimant to decompensate. Furthermore, a claimant must have been incapable of functioning outside a supportive livelihood for any foreseeable time period. If an individual meets or exceeds these qualifications, there is a good chance of eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If a claimant still does not meet the aforementioned criteria, he may still apply for disability based on his remaining functional capacity, education and age. If mental residual functioning is very limited and one is not capable of meeting the demands of basic routine repetitive activities, it is still possible to qualify for a medical vocational disability allowance.

Because applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) with a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis can be a complex and intimidating process, hiring a qualified Social Security Disability lawyer or disability advocate may be in a potential claimant’s best interest.

Your Bipolar Disorder Disability Case

Because Bipolar Disorder is listed in the impairment listing manual of the Social Security Administration, a person with Bipolar Disorder who wishes to file for disability benefits can win by satisfying specific criteria. If you are planning to apply for SSDI/SSI disability benefits, you should bear in mind that all Social Disability claims will be granted or denied based on medical records. You should strive to keep a consistent treatment regimen before and during the Social Security Disability application process, and if your SSDI/SSI application is denied, you should be prepared to file a disability appeal. In many cases, a Social Security Disability lawyer or advocate can provide invaluable help by guiding you through the application and appeals processes.