There are several types of mental impairments that qualify for Social Security Disability. Social Security has carved out categories of mental impairments that are considered severe enough to prevent a person from doing any gainful activity. Even though there are many different types of mental illness that may satisfy the requirements for benefits, this article will focus on Bipolar disorders and its effect.
According to The Merck Manual, “Bipolar disorders are characterized by episodes of mania and depression, which may alternate, although many patients have a predominance of one or the other.” Moreover, Bipolar disorders are classified as:
Bipolar I disorder: Defined by the presence of at least one full-fledged (i.e., disrupting normal social and occupational function)
Bipolar II disorder: Defined by the presence of major depressive episodes
Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS): Disorders with clear bipolar feature that do not meet the specific criteria for other bipolar disorders
This type of condition involving depression and/or elation has to be well documented. It must also show that your condition has lasted or is expected to last for 12 consecutive months. Social Security will review all hospitalizations related to your mental illness we well as mental status exams, and Psychological testing. This is how Social Security determines how limited you are and if the condition satisfies the requirements of the law.
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is commonly misunderstood because those diagnosed with the disorder often have good and bad days. Even if someone responds to treatment, that person may still be seriously limited in their ability to work.
Some people experience loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping—whether it is sleeping too much or not able to sleep at all. I have interviewed people that during a manic episode, they are full of energy and euphoric. At times, they can go days without sleeping then suddenly crash into dark depression experiencing feelings of guilt or worthlessness– even suicidal thoughts.
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms from the diagnosis have to be severe enough. This means, that your ability to function is limited resulting in serious restrictions in your daily activities, social functioning or even difficulties in maintaining concentration. This is how Social Security evaluates whether you have the ability to carry out simple tasks required in the most basic type of work.
It is helpful if your psychiatrist or psychologist can put in writing just how the symptoms of Bipolar affect you. If anyone knows you well enough and how your life is affected, it would be your psychologist or psychiatrist. They are in the best position to tell social security just how the condition affects you daily life and whether you have responded to medication, and if there is likelihood of improvement.