Applying for Disability Benefits With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can compromise your ability to work

Social Security Disability
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If you have bipolar disorder, working or holding down a job can be incredibly difficult. Debilitating depressions, mania-based decision making, struggles with medications and side effects, as well as psychotic features, panic attacks and other extreme symptoms of this illness, can make it difficult for you to obtain or hold a job.

The problems with loss of gainful activity are obvious.

No work equals no money and no insurance. No money equates to unpaid bills, late fees, and compounding interest. No insurance means accumulating medical bills and missed prescriptions. All of this adds up to additional stress with the possibility of exacerbated or triggered episodes. The cycle spirals.

So what can be done? In the United States, a possible solution may be disability benefits from Social Security.

Qualifying for Social Security

If your bipolar disorder is keeping you from working, you can apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To qualify, you will need to have held jobs which contributed funds to Social Security. You must be under the age of 65 to apply. If you are older than 65, you can apply for regular Social Security. 

For SSDI you must have a "total disability," meaning your disability is not short-term or partial. SSDI characterizes total disability as: 

  • An inability to do work you were previously able to do
  • Being unable to switch to other work due to your condition 
  • Your disability lasts for at least one year or will result in death

Applying for SSDI 

To receive SSDI, you must be able to show that your symptoms have kept you from working for over a year.

Those symptoms must be documented with licensed medical professionals who will then submit forms verifying your claims. It can take a while for your application to be approved, typically anywhere from three to five months. 

Once you are approved, you will receive monthly checks to help you support yourself during the time you are unable to work. You will also receive health insurance through Medicaid

Other Ways to Cope with Bipolar Disorder

Coping with bipolar disorder can be challenging. Here are some additional strategies that can help:

  • Learn about bipolar disorder. Learning more about your condition can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan. Help educate your family and friends about what you're going through, which will help them and can help you as well. 
  • Stay focused on your goals. Recovery from bipolar disorder can take time. Stay motivated by keeping your recovery goals in mind and reminding yourself that you can work to repair damaged relationships and other problems caused by your mood swings.
  • Join a support group. Support groups for people with bipolar disorder can help you connect to others facing similar challenges and let you share experiences.
  • Find healthy outlets. Explore healthy ways to channel your energy such as hobbies, exercise, and recreational activities.
  • Learn ways to relax and manage stress. Yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation, or other relaxation techniques can be helpful.