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Can I continue Working with Bipolar Disorder?

The ability to continue working with bipolar disorder often depends on the form of the condition from which you suffer – Type I or Type II – and the severity, frequency and duration of the symptoms you experience, including how common and pronounced your manic and depressive episodes are.

The treatments require to manage your condition can also affect your ability to work, and may include therapy and medications. Many of the medications for treating bipolar disorder also cause side effects that can further impact your ability to maintain employment.

Bipolar Disorder and Mental Capacity

With bipolar disorder, you experience periods of depression and mania. Either stage in these cyclical phases can result in symptoms that make it difficult to work and to effectively interact with your boss and coworkers. The job you have and your daily duties may determine how much your symptoms affect your ability to perform; however, regardless of position you hold, your dependability, reliability, accuracy, cooperativeness and other core attributes are important.

Poor judgment and impulse control, frequent mood swings, irritability, inability to concentrate, hyperactivity, and other common symptoms of the manic phases of bipolar disorder all affect your ability to perform your job and interact with others.

Additionally, the depressive phases of bipolar disorder bring other mental challenges, including pronounced low moods that may prevent you from performing well at work, and perhaps even extreme sadness that keeps you from getting our bed and making it to work each day. Inability to make decisions, concentrate or remember things are also common symptoms that can negatively impact your ability to perform your job.

Drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and sleeping disorders are also commonly associated with and/or caused by bipolar disorder. These additional conditions affect your working ability and the likelihood you’ll be able to get and keep a good job.

Mood stabilizing medications are required for treating bipolar disorder, though some patients require treatment that may include anti-anxiety, antidepressant or antipsychotic medications as well. Other therapies may also be necessary in cases where drug therapy is not effective, including electroconvulsive therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation. Hospitalization during manic or depressive episodes is commonly required, and any period of hospitalization certainly has an impact on your ability to work.

Bipolar Disorder and Physical Capacity

Bipolar disorder symptoms are primarily mental or psychological in nature. As such, the impact that the disorder has on your ability to perform the physical duties of your job, like lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling items, or walking, standing or operating equipment may not be significant. However, because the mental capacity to safely and effectively perform physical duties may be compromised by your bipolar disorder, the implications of the condition on your overall ability to work can be far reaching. Additionally, because bipolar disorder often affects sleep patterns, you may be physically fatigued and experience balance problems or muscle weakness. These and other physical manifestations of symptoms can impact your capability to perform physical job requirements.

Applying for Disability with Bipolar Disorder

When you apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits with bipolar disorder, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will compare your symptoms to the listing in the Blue Book for “ Affective Disorders” and will seek to establish your physical and mental residual functional capacity (RFC) in order to determine if you meet the eligibility requirements for receiving disability benefits. The Blue Book is the manual of potentially disabling conditions used by the SSA, and RFC defines what kind of work, if any, you may be able to perform, even with the limitations your bipolar disorder places on you.

Being approved for SSD benefits with bipolar disorder requires extensive medical documentation, including statements from your treating physicians and records showing the effects of the condition on your everyday life and your ability to work. Because the eligibility criteria for meeting the “Affective Disorders” Blue Book definition are complex, it’s advisable that you seek help from a Social Security advocate and/or attorney when applying for disability benefits.

If you want to find out if you qualify for disability, fill out the free evaluation form on this site to be contacted by a disability attorney in your area.