Bipolar Disorder and Social Security Disability


Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterized by highs and lows; one who has the condition can experience the lows of depression to the highs of mania. Such mood shifts may only occur only a few times a year, but in some cases, they can happen as often as several times per day. In some cases, bipolar disorder even causes symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. Due to the symptoms experienced by those with bipolar disorder, people with the condition often find themselves unable to work/maintain employment. This being the case, they may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits based on Bipolar Disorder. Here, bipolar disability will be discussed in more detail in etiology as well as in relation to applying and qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits.About Bipolar DisorderSeveral factors seem to be involved in causing and triggering bipolar episodes. Some of these factors involve the following:Biological differences. Physical changes within the brain;
Neurotransmitters. An imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals;
Hormones. Imbalanced hormones may be involved in causing or triggering bipolar disorder.
Inherited traits. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a blood relative with the condition.
Environment. Stress, abuse, significant loss or other traumatic experiences.The exact symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. For some people, depression causes the most problems; for other people manic symptoms are the main concern. Symptoms of depression and symptoms of mania or hypomania may also occur together, which is known as a mixed episode. Signs and symptoms of the manic or hypomanic phase of bipolar disorder can include the following:Euphoria
Extreme optimism
Inflated self-esteem
Poor judgment
Rapid speech; racing thoughts
Aggressive and/or risky behavior
Agitation or irritation
Increased physical activity
Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
Increased sex drive
Decreased need for sleep
Inability to concentrate
Frequent absences from work or school
Delusions or a break from reality (psychosis)
Poor performance at work or schoolSigns and symptoms of the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can include:Sadness
Suicidal thoughts or behavior
Sleep problems
Low or increased appetite
Loss of interest in daily activities
Problems concentrating
Chronic pain without a known cause
Frequent absences from work or school
Poor performance at work or schoolBipolar disorder requires lifelong treatment, even during periods when you feel better. The primary treatments for bipolar disorder include medications; individual, group or family psychological counseling (psychotherapy); or education and support groups. A variety of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder, including Lithium, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antipsychotics, Symbyax, and Benzodiazepines.Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits Based on Bipolar DisorderSocial Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a federal program designed to pay monetary benefits to qualified applicants who have worked long enough and paid their social security taxes. Based on medical evidence, work history, and education history, the Social Security Administration determines whether or not applicants qualify for benefits and how much each applicant can receive. The Social Security Administration (SSA) sets forth specific criteria when qualifying applicants for benefits. With regard to bipolar disorder specifically, the medical evidence must be consistent with SSA’s classification within the following criteria:12.04 Affective disorders: Characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in C are satisfied.A. Medically documented persistence, either continuous or intermittent, of one of the following:1. Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four of the following:a. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activities; orb. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; orc. Sleep disturbance; ord. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; ore. Decreased energy; orf. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; org. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; orh. Thoughts of suicide; ori. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking; or2. Manic syndrome characterized by at least three of the following:a. Hyperactivity; orb. Pressure of speech; orc. Flight of ideas; ord. Inflated self-esteem; ore. Decreased need for sleep; orf. Easy distractibility; org. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences which are not recognized; orh. Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking; or3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently characterized by either or both syndromes);ANDB. Resulting in at least two of the following:1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;ORC. Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at least 2 years’ duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:1. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration; or2. A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate; or3. Current history of 1 or more years’ inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.Keep in mind that the depression symptoms which meet the criteria for receipt of benefits may develop as a result of the disease process and/or the medications prescribed and used, or the residual effects of procedures used to treat the disease.The medical evidence supporting one’s argument that he or she may meet these criteria, and therefore qualify for disability benefits, is crucial to obtaining a favorable finding. Physicians are considered experts in their field of practice, and their diagnosis, treatment and prognosis concerning a person’s condition are key to determining if someone who suffers with bipolar disorder qualifies for Social Security Disability benefits.