An Honest, Clear Voice In SSI/SSDI Care

Does bipolar disorder qualify for SSDI benefits?

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2024 | Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are available for a wide range of conditions, including bipolar disorder – but there are caveats. 

The highs and lows of bipolar disorder aren’t like the normal ups and downs that most people experience in their moods – and it can still be debilitating. For the Social Security Administration (SSA) to consider the condition disabling, however, it has to meet certain rules.

What is bipolar disorder?

Formerly known as “manic-depressive” illness, it’s now understood that bipolar disorder exists on a spectrum. There are three main types:

  1. Bipolar I: This is defined by manic episodes that last a week or more, which can manifest as extreme (giddy) happiness or irritability, a decreased need for sleep, an abundance of energy, uncontrollable and racing thought patterns, impulsivity and reckless behavior. It can also cause hallucinations and psychotic episodes. On the flip side, sufferers may experience major depressive episodes lasting two weeks or longer where they may be intensely tired, feel worthless and even consider suicide.
  2. Bipolar II: This is similar to Bipolar I, but the manic episodes are generally less prominent, frequent or severe.
  3. Cyclothymia: This involves “hypomanic” symptoms that are not quite severe enough to qualify as “manic,” and depression that doesn’t quite qualify as a “major depressive episode,” often in rotation. 

Bipolar disorder is a biochemical illness that isn’t something that can be controlled without treatment. It can also take years to get the right medication regime – and some people never find one.

When does it qualify for SSDI?

Generally speaking, SSA will evaluate a claim involving bipolar disorder to see if it (and any other comorbid conditions the sufferer may have) meets the agency’s definition of “severe” and “persistent.” Merely having the diagnosis is not enough to qualify for benefits.

Instead, SSA will consider things like how long the disorder has been present, what treatments have been tried, whether the claimant is compliant (and able to be compliant) with their care plan and how effective or ineffective those treatments have actually been. SSA will also look carefully at how the disorder has affected a claimant’s ability to work, care for themselves and maintain personal relationships.

If you or someone you love has severe bipolar disorder, SSDI benefits may be available. Getting help with your application can make it easier to win approval.