Back to all Practice Areas
Bipolar Disorder

Does Bipolar Disorder Qualify Me For Social Security Benefits?

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can be extreme enough to prevent an individual from working. If this is the case for you, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.


Back to all Practice Areas

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by alternating periods of mania and depression. There are two main types of bipolar disorder, Bipolar I and Bipolar II, and each may have slightly different criteria for diagnosis.

Bipolar I is characterized by distinct periods of mania and depression, though some individuals will also experience symptoms of hypomania, a state of mania where symptoms are milder. In order to be diagnosed with Bipolar I, manic symptoms must last at least one week and occur for most of the day every day or result in hospitalization. Approximately 30% of individuals diagnosed with Bipolar I experience severe symptoms.

Bipolar I is most commonly diagnosed around age 18. Individuals with Bipolar I are often diagnosed with additional mental health conditions, such as anxiety. In order to be diagnosed with Bipolar I, individuals must also experience a period of significant depression.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Constant depressed mood
  • Decreased pleasure or interest in almost all activities
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Insomnia or hyposomnia
  • Restlessness or slowed activity, as observed by others
  • Fatigue
  • Worthlessness or feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death, suicidal ideation, or suicide attempts

Symptoms of mania include:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Highly talkative state
  • Racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Increased activity generally, especially goal-directed activity
  • Increased reckless behavior such as gambling, spending sprees, social behaviors

Bipolar II is more common than Bipolar I. Like Bipolar I, it is often first diagnosed in young people.  However, unlike Bipolar I, individuals with Bipolar II never experience manic episodes. Instead, they experience periods of major depression along with periods of hypomania. Unlike mania, the symptoms of hypomania are not severe enough to cause severe impairments in social and occupational functioning. However, this does not mean that individuals with Bipolar II cannot qualify for disability benefits.

Bipolar disorder is included in the Social Security Listings of Impairments, which means that if your illness has been diagnosed by a qualified medical practitioner and is severe enough to keep you from working, you are eligible to receive disability benefits. However, because there are no medical tests for these mental illnesses, it is vital that you see a psychologist or psychiatrist who can support your application.

(Source: DSM-V by the American Psychiatric Association)

Improving Your Chances For Obtaining Benefits

It’s particularly important to see a psychologist or psychiatrist who can document the progression of your illness because this can sometimes be the only official record of your depression, mania or bipolar disorder. If you live with or frequently see family members or friends, ask them to document how your behavior has changed over time as well. While manic periods can occasionally be pleasant, it’s very important that you follow any course of treatment that you’re given; noncompliance can lead to a denial of benefits.

  1. Keep a detailed journal, including a calendar of notes about how you feel each day.
  2. Record any usual activities you could not do on any given day.
  3. Keep a detailed history of your current and past medications.
  4. See a health care professional regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that he/she can support your application for benefits.
  5. Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, unusual behavior, or other hard-to-document symptoms.
  6. Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.
  7. Regular use of marijuana, alcohol or other substances can hurt your chances of having your disability claim approved.

Get In Touch

(503) 228-5222
Bipolar Disorder

Representative Cases

Gamble v. Chater 1995

Category:
We won the first decision granting Social Security benefits to an amputee who could not afford a new prosthesis.
Learn More

Stout v. Commissioner 2006

Category:
We won a decision for a social security claimant at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals establishing that a social security judge cannot ignore the testimony of claimant’s witnesses and that the government’s lawyers can’t make up new arguments on…
Learn More

Parkinson's Disease Claim

Category:
Our client, a 50-year-old woman with symptoms of Parkinson's Disease, was denied initially and at reconsideration. We won her case at hearing.
Learn More
View All Cases
Thanks & Praise

Testimonials

  • I cannot express my gratitude
    and appreciation for the meticulous effort and successful case you put together on my behalf.  This has been an extremely difficult time for me.  You have helped by giving me the support and guidance toward a positive result.  Thank you, Melissa!
    Mary, Portland
  • I can’t thank you enough, Melissa, for all you’ve done
    toward getting this positive outcome. Your patience, clarity, support, and friendly professionalism saw me through a very tough time. I’m grateful to have had you on my side.
    Debra, Portland
  • I’m sure things went as smooth
    as they did because of you being my lawyer. The man at the local SS office said that people have a lot of respect for you in the SS world. Thank you again so much.
    Pam, Salem, OR
  • Finding oneself applying for disability
    is an extremely difficult position to be in. I found myself at times very confused and overcome with emotion. However, from the first time I met her, Melissa treated me kindly, respectfully and all the while maintaining a very professional demeanor. I was never anything but 100 percent confident in her abilities to guide me through this difficult time. Now that this difficult endeavor has wound down, I am filled with a sense of renewed hope. Thanks to your wonderful team, I now feel that I have been given a ‘fresh start’ in life. Not a lot of folks are given that opportunity.
    Speaking of teamwork, my thank you would not be complete without mentioning your assistant, Erin Daniels. Erin was also very professional, very helpful and I never felt as if I was being talked down to. She deserves a great big thank you for her efforts also.
    I will always remain forever grateful to the great staff at Swanson, Thomas and Coon.
    Suzanne, NE Portland
  • Melissa,
    thank you so much for all of your hard work! I will forever be grateful for all that you did to help me prepare for the hearing, for being so kind, for always answering my calls and emails so quickly, and for always being so helpful! You really have no idea how much my husband and I appreciate you. Thanks again for everything,
    Rachael, Portland
  • Melissa is a trust worthy lawyer.
    We had a very hard case which had a low chance of winning, but we did win. Melissa is patient and honest. She takes the time to explain any information even it takes a couple of times to explain the same thing. I found Melissa to be very professional. This was the first time I have ever had to go before a judge and it was a little scary but Melissa helped us be calm. I believe Melissa knows what she is doing.
    Becky, Hillsboro
  • Dear Melissa,
    thanks very much for helping with my SSDI hearing. You were so kind and gracious as well as helpful to me. You restored my faith in lawyers. My lawyer for my car accident claim was rude and didn’t follow through as promised. You were exactly the opposite and made me feel respected and comfortable/relaxed. Thanks VERY much.
    Sue, Portland
View All Testimonials

We can help

Get in touch for a free consultation.