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Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability?

  • Published: March 21, 2019

Bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and can result in extreme mood changes from depression to euphoria. Both men and women can experience bipolar disorder, and it can begin at any age. Eighty-five percent of people with bipolar disorder have a family history of depression.

Your insurance company may be aware of the symptoms, but is bipolar disorder a disability that can qualify you for long-term disability benefits? Yes it is. Symptoms of bipolar disorder fluctuate, interfere with your ability to work, and can cause problems in personal relationships. If you decide to file a disability claim keep these tips in mind.

Bipolar Disorder Episodes Can Be Manic or Depressive

During a bipolar disorder episode, symptoms are active and can be either manic or depressive. Depressive symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, irritable, lethargic, and sleeping more than usual. Severe symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia.

During a manic episode, you can feel euphoric, sleep less, have racing thoughts, and engage in risky or dangerous behaviors.

Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder

The “mixed-state” disorder includes both manic and depressive symptoms and can cause confusion, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. You may feel depressed and manic, lethargic and restless, and feel excessively angry or have delusions.

Your Experience Is Unique

There are common symptoms of bipolar disorder, but everyone has a different experience and combination of symptoms. The insurance company must understand how you experience bipolar disorder and how it prevents you from working.

Symptoms of Bipolar Manic episodes include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Hallucinations

Symptoms of Bipolar Depressive episodes include:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

There is no blood test or imaging scan that can confirm bipolar disorder. Tests are used to rule out other diseases but are not proof of the disorder. Begin with your primary physician. He or she will do a complete physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and take your family history. You may be referred to a mental health professional for further diagnosis.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

The insurance company will want to know the type of bipolar disorder you have. There are four classifications.

  1. Bipolar Disorder Type 1 consists of at least one manic episode with a depressive episode before or after the mania. Symptoms include restlessness, trouble sleeping, inability to concentrate, and talking rapidly. Severe symptoms include hallucinations and psychosis.
  2. Bipolar Disorder 2, or swinging bipolar, consists of at least one depressive and one hypomanic episode, but without psychosis. A depressive episode may arise suddenly, especially due to a traumatic experience such as the loss of a loved one, and be persistent.
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder is having hypomania or mania and depression over at least a two year period. There is no major episode, but the depression and mania fluctuate over time. Cyclothymic disorder doesn’t meet the full criteria for major depression, but it does interfere with daily life.
  4. Bipolar Disorder-NOS are episodes of depression that don’t fit in the other three types. People with Bipolar Disorder-NOS are more likely to seek treatment. It’s important for your physician to take a complete family history and determine the best treatment to prevent the disorder from becoming progressively worse.

Current Treatments For Bipolar Disorder

Your long-term disability claim should include the type of treatment you are receiving for the disorder. If you are not receiving treatment, the insurance company may reject your claim.


Mood stabilizers, antidepressant, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety medications are common. The right combination is often determined through trial and error.


Individual counseling, behavioral, social rhythm or family therapy can help alleviate underlying issues related to bipolar disorder.

Day Treatment Programs

Daily programs can help you identify and manage your symptoms.


Inpatient care is indicated if you have thoughts of suicide, act dangerously, or have a psychotic episode.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Used for cases of severe depression or mania when all other treatments have failed.

Follow your treatment plan consistently. If you are non-compliant, your claim may be rejected.

How Bipolar Disorder Affects Your Work

Help the insurance company understand your symptoms using a narrative. Include your symptoms, how they affect you, and how they prevent you from working. For example, if you’re unable to concentrate, you may miss important deadlines; depression may cause you to miss excessive time from work. Your doctor’s opinion is equally important and should include the frequency and severity of your symptoms, examination and test results, their observations of you, and limitations or restrictions.

Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability? Learn More About Qualifying for Long-Term Disability Benefits

For answers to more questions like “is bipolar disorder a disability?” contact CJ Henry Law Firm, PLLC today. An Ocala FL long-term disability lawyer can you with your claim.

Claudeth Henry

Attorney Henry is a Florida disability lawyer Florida disability lawyer uniquely suited to help you
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