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Bipolar Disorder, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

For more information on:   Social Security Disability and SSI Disability.

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental illness categorized by cyclic periods of extreme euphoria or mania, most often followed by periods of extreme depression. Bipolar disorder itself is not a solitary mood disorder, but a category of many mood disorders. Since moods are oftentimes up and down for most people, to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder the patient must experience four or five symptoms of mania for at least a week.

There are currently four main classifications of bipolar disorder including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Bipolar NOS and Cyclothymia. Bipolar I is diagnosed if the patient has one episode of extreme mania, with or without a depressive period. Bipolar II is diagnosed if the patient has a less extreme manic episode, called hypomania, followed by at least one major depressive episode. Cyclothmia is diagnosed when the patient has a history of hypomania along with periods of depressive episodes that are not categorized as majorly depressive. During Cyclothmia a person has less extreme cases of mania and depression, but they are both experienced in a cycling of moods, changing back and forth on a consistent basis. Bipolar Disorder (NOS), meaning Not Otherwise Specified, is the classification used when bipolar disorder is diagnosed, but does not fall into one of the three previous categories.

Bipolar disorder also falls into ‘rapid cycling’, which is when the moods of mania and depression cycle back and forth and ‘mixed effective episodes’, when symptoms of a manic state and depressive state are experienced at the same time.

Symptoms of mania can include rushed speech, short attention span, sleeplessness, racing thoughts, impaired judgment and unusual behavior. Oftentimes when people are experiencing mania they will engage in substance abuse, increased and unsafe sexual activity, aggressiveness and fall into grandiose, delusional ideas about themselves. In later stages of mania the patient may experience psychotic delusions, hallucinations and rage.

Symptoms of depression can include deep sadness, fatigue, isolation, guilt, hopelessness and anxiety. They may also lose sleep, sexual drive, interest in normal activities and appetite. Depressive states are also usually accompanied by social anxiety, chronic pain and lack of motivation. In later stages, those experiencing a depressive state may become suicidal and psychotic.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder usually occur in childhood or late adolescence. Studies suggest that there are many factors that contribute to the disease, from early childhood environment, neurobiology and genetics. The disease is diagnosed after other illnesses are ruled out. It is treated with counseling, therapy and medications such as antipsychotic medications or mood stabilizers. Lithium is the most common medication for bipolar disorder.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Filing for Disability
Panic Attacks and Filing for Disability
Anxiety Disorder, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
Anxiety Attacks and Filing for Disability
Filing for Social Security Disability or SSI with Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder and Filing for Disability
Social Security Disability SSI and ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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ADHD, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
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Alcoholism and Filing for Disability
Bipolar disorder, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits
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Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria