Skip to Content

Does bipolar disorder qualify for disability?

Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, as it can greatly impact daily functioning and quality of life. For some individuals, the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be so debilitating that it becomes difficult to maintain employment and financial stability. In such cases, understanding disability eligibility for bipolar disorder becomes crucial. In this blog post, we will explore the topic of whether bipolar disorder qualifies for disability and provide valuable insights into the Social Security Disability system, the process of claiming disability benefits, and the importance of supporting a disability claim with sufficient evidence and documentation.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings that range from periods of emotional highs (mania or hypomania) to lows (depression). It is classified into several types, including bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary between individuals but commonly include mood swings, changes in energy levels, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and changes in appetite.

Living with bipolar disorder can significantly impact an individual’s daily functioning and overall quality of life. The intense mood episodes can disrupt relationships, work performance, and the ability to carry out daily activities. It is vital to recognize the challenges faced by individuals with bipolar disorder and the importance of seeking appropriate treatment and support.

Social Security Disability System

The Social Security Administration (SSA) in the United States offers disability benefits to individuals who are unable to work due to a medical condition. The SSA considers bipolar disorder as one of the many mental illnesses that may qualify for benefits. However, it is essential to understand the disability determination process and the criteria set forth by the SSA to assess eligibility.

The disability determination process involves a thorough evaluation of an individual’s medical condition and its impact on their ability to work. The SSA utilizes a Listing of Impairments, also known as the “Blue Book,” which outlines specific medical criteria for various conditions, including mental health disorders. While bipolar disorder is not specifically listed in the Blue Book, it falls under the category of affective disorders, which includes mood disorders.

Bipolar Disorder and Disability Eligibility

To qualify for disability benefits with bipolar disorder, individuals must demonstrate that their condition meets the eligibility criteria set by the SSA. The evaluation focuses on the severity and duration of symptoms, the impact on daily functioning, and the ability to sustain gainful employment. A key factor in disability claims for bipolar disorder is meeting or equaling the Listing of Impairments, specifically Section 12.04, which relates to affective disorders.

Meeting the Listing of Impairments means that an individual’s symptoms and functional limitations are severe enough to automatically qualify for disability benefits. However, if the criteria are not met, the SSA will assess the residual functional capacity (RFC) of the individual. The RFC assessment considers the individual’s ability to perform work-related activities, such as sitting, standing, and concentrating.

Supporting a Disability Claim for Bipolar Disorder

Supporting a disability claim for bipolar disorder requires comprehensive medical evidence and documentation. This includes medical records, treatment history, psychological evaluations, and statements from treating physicians and mental health professionals. It is crucial for individuals to consistently seek and comply with the recommended treatment for their bipolar disorder, as evidence of ongoing treatment and medication compliance strengthens the claim.

Medical professionals play a vital role in the disability evaluation process. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health specialists provide expert opinions and documentation regarding the severity and impact of an individual’s bipolar disorder. Their evaluations and statements can significantly influence the outcome of a disability claim.

Challenges and Common Mistakes in Bipolar Disorder Disability Claims

There are several challenges and common mistakes that individuals with bipolar disorder may encounter when applying for disability benefits. These include:

1. Lack of sufficient medical documentation and evidence: Insufficient medical records and documentation can weaken a disability claim. It is essential to maintain detailed records of treatment, therapy sessions, and any hospitalizations related to bipolar disorder.

2. Failure to demonstrate the impact of symptoms on functional abilities: Providing clear and detailed evidence of how bipolar disorder impacts daily activities, work performance, and relationships is crucial. The SSA needs to see how the condition significantly impairs functioning.

3. Inconsistencies in the claimant’s statements and evidence: Consistency in the claimant’s statements and the evidence provided is vital. Any inconsistencies can raise doubts about the individual’s credibility and may lead to a denial of benefits.

4. Importance of legal representation and professional assistance: Navigating the disability claims process can be complex and overwhelming. Engaging the services of a trusted lawyer experienced in disability claims can greatly increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Other Resources and Support for Individuals with Bipolar Disorder

Apart from disability benefits, individuals with bipolar disorder have access to various resources and support. These include mental health treatment options, such as therapy and medication management, support groups, vocational rehabilitation programs, and mental health advocacy organizations. These resources aim to provide assistance, guidance, and a sense of community to individuals living with bipolar disorder.


Bipolar disorder can significantly impact an individual’s ability to work and maintain financial stability. Understanding the disability eligibility process for bipolar disorder and providing sufficient evidence to support a claim is crucial for individuals seeking disability benefits. By seeking appropriate medical treatment, complying with prescribed medications, and obtaining professional assistance, individuals with bipolar disorder can navigate the disability claims process more effectively. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources available to support you on your journey towards stability and financial security.


  1. Is Bipolar A Disability?
  2. Disability Benefits for Bipolar Disorder
  3. Is bipolar a disability? Eligibility and how to claim
  4. Bipolar Disorder – Obtaining Social Security Benefits
  5. 12.00-Mental Disorders-Adult