Bipolar Disorder and SSD
When bipolar disorder is described in the most basic sense—as a type of mood disorder that causes fluctuation between extreme highs and extreme lows—it might not seem that bad. After all, who doesn’t experience a combination of good feelings and negative ones throughout their day? But if you know someone with a type of bipolar disorder, or live with bipolar disorder yourself, you know that it’s far more than the everyday ups and downs.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that combines periods of mania and depression. During a period of mania, people with bipolar disorder might exhibit symptoms like:
- physical agitation
- a decreased need for sleep
- unnaturally fast speech
- inflated self-esteem
- an increased potential to engage in risky behavior, like making poor financial investments or having unprotected sex
During a depressive episode, on the other hand, people might experience extreme feelings of sadness or hopelessness, lose interest in previously enjoyable activities, or suffer from fatigue, insomnia, or a loss of appetite.
Both manic and depressive phases can last for weeks or even months. Some people experience one more frequently or severely than the other. For example, people with Bipolar I disorder are more likely to have severe manic periods, sometimes to the point of psychosis. People with Bipolar II disorder, on the other hand, are more prone to episodes of extreme depression.
How Does Bipolar Disorder Limit Working Abilities?
In the professional world, bipolar disorder can affect a person’s ability to work by limiting their ability to:
- Understand, remember, or apply information
- Interact with others in socially acceptable ways
- Adapt to a professional setting
For example, someone might have difficultly with focusing while they are experiencing a period of depression, or be unable to work with others without feeling agitated during a manic period. For some, these periods of limitations might come and go. Others who suffer from longer periods of mania or depression might experience long-term limitations.
When someone experiences limitations that affect their ability to perform work, they may qualify for Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. However, because of the various manifestations of bipolar disorder, it is very difficult to prove that it affects the ability to work. Many times, people with bipolar disorder get denied because their condition only causes temporary limitations. Other times, they get denied because their symptoms are not persistently severe enough to entirely limit their ability to work.
The Complications of the SSD Process
For someone to qualify for SSD, they need to prove that they experience serious and persistent symptoms. The Social Security Administration tends to focus more on manic symptoms, like agitation or distractibility, as these are more likely to impact a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. The ability to perform job-related tasks must be severely limited for someone to qualify. This means that someone who infrequently experiences periods of symptoms might not qualify. Similarly, if a person’s bipolar disorder can be successfully managed through medication or other forms of treatment, they are less likely to qualify for SSD.
If you are suffering from bipolar disorder, the process of applying for SSD can be painstaking and frustrating. Getting denied even when you know you have a severe limitation can make the situation feel worse. When your claim is denied, it might feel like your condition is not being taken seriously. But if you know you deserve benefits for your severe condition or know that a loved one needs help, perseverance and support can help you get through the complex SSD process.
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