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Understanding Bipolar Disorder as a Disability

Published on August 25th, 2022

Previously known as “manic depression”, Bipolar Disorder is a mental condition that causes extreme changes in mood, energy, and focus. This can lead to loss of relationships, family, employment, and more.

In order to be approved for Social Security benefits for Bipolar Disorder, certain requirements must be met. Due to the complexity of the varying disorders and requirements, we recommend working with an experienced disability attorney.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Thought to be primarily hereditary, Bipolar Disorder causes neurotransmitters in the brain to “misfire.” These misfires can lead to levels of noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine being too high or too low. The imbalance can cause symptoms that mimic other disorders like depression or drug addiction, resulting in difficulty receiving a proper diagnosis.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

All three major types of Bipolar Disorder have symptoms that include mania, hypomania, and severe depression. Manic episodes (mania or hypomania) can be indicated by the following behaviors:

  • Increased energy, agitation, giddiness or talking
  • Exaggerated sense of self-confidence
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks or focus thoughts
  • Making bad decisions (i.e. impulsive shopping or investments, risky sexual behavior)

On the flipside to the manic phases, are the major depressive episodes. As the disorder’s name suggests, depression takes on the opposite symptoms of mania. These behaviors may include:

  • Feelings of extreme hopelessness, emptiness, irritability
  • Loss of interest in most or all activities
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Inability to get out of bed combined with insomnia
  • Slowed or delayed thinking
  • Fatigue or having no energy
  • Feelings of excessive worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Inability to think clearly or extreme indecisiveness
  • Suicidal ideation

Types of Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three primary types of Bipolar Disorder. They are categorized based on frequency and duration of symptoms.

Bipolar I Disorder

This type of Bipolar is marked by manic phases that last 7 days, or by severe manic behavior requiring hospitalization. Depressive episodes do not usually exceed a period of two weeks.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar 2 is characterized by longer depressive episodes interrupted by bursts of hypomania not typically lasting more than a few days.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Also sometimes called Bipolar Type 3, Cyclothymia Disorder consists of hypomania combined with depression lasting for at least two years. These symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for Bipolar Type 1 or 2.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Oral medication for brain chemical imbalance is typically started at low doses to prevent further imbalance. Both prescription treatments and psychotherapy can be time-consuming and frustrating, often resulting in patients discontinuing treatment all together.

That being said, if the patient adheres to the treatment plan, they usually do see improvement over time. Improvement does not necessarily mean harmonious living, however, and it can still be a struggle to maintain relationships and employment. The important thing is to never give up – and to seek disability benefits.

Applying for Disability

When it comes to mental impairments as a disability, having the proper documentation can be tricky. Because each category in the SSA blue book has different requirements, supporting evidence needed varies from one disorder to another.

We highly recommend obtaining the legal support of an experienced Social Security disability attorney to help you through the process. If you would like to discuss your disability application, contact us for a free consultation.

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