Advances in medicine, particularly regarding the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, have come a long way. Despite these advances, almost 83% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have serious impairment with 17% of people experiencing moderate impairment according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

If a bipolar disorder disability prevents you from working, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance programs. The following information is offered by NY Disability to help you understand how SSI and SSDI benefits claims based on a diagnosis of bipolar disorder are evaluated and what you can do to improve the chances of having your claim approved.

What is bipolar disorder?

The mental health condition formerly referred to as either manic depression or manic-depressive disorder is now called bipolar disorder by the Social Security Administration and health care professionals. Symptoms include extreme mood swings ranging from episodes of mania that alternate with periods of depression.

A person with a bipolar disorder my exhibit signs of mania, which are the high mood swings, that include the following:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Poor judgment
  • Aggressive or reckless behavior
  • Irritability
  • Easily distracted
  • Racing speech and thoughts

Among the signs of depression, which are the lows experienced by someone with a bipolar disorder, a person may exhibit the following:

  • Sadness and hopelessness
  • Appetite changes
  • Loss of mental and physical energy
  • Outbursts of crying
  • Feelings of worthlessness and negativity
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Loss of ability to concentrate and focus

The high and low episodes may occur sporadically with the person at times exhibiting no symptoms of the disorder. This makes the diagnosis of bipolar disorder very difficult, which can affect a person’s ability to qualify for bipolar disorder disability benefits.

A person suspected of having bipolar disorder should seek a diagnosis from a mental health specialist. Health care professionals who work with patients suspected of having a bipolar disorder attempt to classify the type of bipolar disorder in order to determine a course of treatment.

Treatment is essential to qualifying for disability benefits for bipolar disorder. One of the requirements for anyone applying for Social Security disability benefits because of a bipolar disorder must be compliant with treatment protocols, including medication therapy as prescribed by the treating physician. If an applicant for SSD is not taking medication as prescribed, Social Security will deny the claim for bipolar disorder disability benefits.

How to qualify for bipolar disability

Social Security employs a strict definition of disability to determine whether an applicant for SSD qualifies for benefits. A person must be unable to engage in a substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or result in death.

The examiners who review applications and medical records supporting them to determine whether a person is, indeed, disabled, are aided by a Listing of Impairments compiled by the Social Security Administration, which is also called “The Blue Book.” The Listing of Impairments contains criteria for several specific medical conditions that are deemed serious enough to qualify for disability benefits.

If a person has a listed medical condition that meets certain specific criteria as contained in the Blue Book, the likelihood is that an application for benefits will be approved. An affective disorder, such as bipolar disorder, can be found in section 12.04 of the Blue Book.

To qualify for SSD by meeting the listing criteria for bipolar disorder. There are, however, three sets of criteria. For instance, the first requirement is that an applicant must demonstrate through medical evidence that the applicant showed at least four specific symptoms of depression and at least three specific symptoms of mania.

If the applicant satisfies the first requirement, they must also meet the second criteria showing they have experienced extreme limitation of one or marked limitation of two of the following mental functions:

  • Ability to understand, remember and apply information.
  • Ability to interact with other people.
  • Ability to concentrate, persist or maintain a pace.
  • Ability to adapt or self-manage.

An experienced disability lawyer from NY Disability can help you determine whether your condition meets these and other criteria included in the Listing of Impairments to qualify for SSD based on a bipolar disorder disability.

Let a bipolar disorder disability benefits lawyer help you

A consultation with a disability lawyer at NY Disability is free and can provide you with helpful ways to improve the chance of being approved for disability benefits for a bipolar disorder, including keeping appointments with your medical professionals, taking prescribed medications, and keeping a journal of how your bipolar disorder affected your ability to perform work-related tasks. We care about your wellbeing and want to help you to get the benefits you need and deserve, so call today to schedule a free consultation.