Social Security Disability and Bipolar Disorder

Probably one of the more challenging conditions that we come across in trying to establish that an individual is disabled enough to receive Social Security disability benefits has to do with the diagnosed condition of Bipolar Disorder. It is challenging because the symptoms very between manic episodes and depressive episodes with some periods of normalcy.

Frequently, when considering this condition, the Social Security Administration will look only at the periods of normalcy, and they do not take a very close look at the periodic variations created by the condition.

Manic And Depressed Phases

People with Bipolar Disorder will often experience two separate phases of problems. There will be manic phases, where the individual has racing thoughts, inability to focus and concentrate, sometimes appears anxious, often can’t sleep for days at a time, will consider grandiose plans of going back to school for further education, starting a new job, starting to exercise, or spend money that they don’t have. Because they don’t rest during these manic phases they then usually are followed by depressed phases.

During the depressed phase, the individual, either for several days, sometimes several weeks, will become lethargic, lack energy, have memory problems, lack motivation or interest. They will stop taking care of themselves, sometimes sleeping all day and not bathing or eating as they normally would.

Most people with Bipolar Disorder will sometimes have periods in between the phases where they are relatively normal and may have some function. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration often focuses on the better periods and ignores the bad periods or phases. This is contrary to Social Security’s own regulations. Social Security Regulation 85 – 15 reminds us that the basic mental demands of competitive, remunerative work includes the ability (on a sustained basis) to understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions, and to respond appropriately to supervision or coworkers. A substantial loss of ability to meet these work-related activities may severely limit the potential occupational base and may justify a finding of disability.

A similar condition is called “Cyclothymic Disorder”.

The Social Security Administration is supposed to look at your situation, and all relevant evidence, to obtain a “longitudinal” picture of your overall degree of function or limitations. It is really a test as to whether or not the individual can perform work “on a sustained basis”. They are supposed to take into consideration all episodic limitations as well.

Hire An Attorney To Help With Your Claim

Anyone seeking Social Security disability benefits based on a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder may have to hire an attorney to help present this, and to force an Administrative Law Judge to consider the episodic difficulties.