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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic depression, is a mental health condition that not everyone understands but most people are beginning to learn more about. This condition is classified as a mood disorder that causes people to have periods of depression followed by periods of elation. These mood swings can make it difficult for some people to work and hold a steady job because they struggle with the depression, which makes it difficult to get out of bed at times, and the euphoria, which can cause reckless decision making. These are some things that you should know about making an SSI disability claim.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder that used to be called manic depression, and the condition is the same even though the name has changed. With this disorder, people’s moods swing from low depression to euphoria or mania. Since there are two parts to this disorder, you should also know that symptoms can vary according to whether the person is in a state of mania or a state of depression.

Additionally, there are two types of bipolar: bipolar I and bipolar II. Each subset of bipolar also has specific criteria that differentiate one from the other and must be met in order for a person to gain disability benefits.

Bipolar affects almost 6 million Americans every year, which equates to about 2.6% of adult Americans. A middle range for people who begin to experience bipolar is about 25 years old, but people can develop it as early as late childhood and as late as the 50s.

Although there are some parameters for age of onset of bipolar disorder, both men and women experience the disorder in equal numbers, and it can affect people in any social class or ethnicity.

There’s some evidence that suggests that bipolar might be at least partially heritable, with about two-thirds of people with the disorder who also have a close relative who has either bipolar or depression. High-stress periods in a person’s life can also trigger episodes of mania or depression, and the use of some drugs might also induce a manic or depressive episode.

Children with Bipolar Disorder

It’s also worthwhile to talk about the subset of people with bipolar who are children. If there is one parent who has bipolar disorder, the risk of each child developing it is between 15% and 30%. For children whose parents both have the disease, the likelihood of inheriting it jumps up to as high as 50%. Additionally, about 1% of teenager between the ages of 14 and 18 have the disorder, which means that there are some people who are entering the workforce, already with the disorder.

Symptoms and Types of Bipolar Disorder

Both bipolar I and bipolar II have very similar symptoms, with the mania of bipolar I being more pronounced than the mania of bipolar II.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is characterized by periods of severe depression with periods of euphoric mania. People with bipolar I are more likely to experience longer periods of mania than people who have bipolar II.

When a person with bipolar I is experiencing a depressive episode, they might have thoughts of suicide. The person might also have difficulty getting out of bed, have feelings of self-hatred, guilt, and lack of energy. They might also experience changes in eating habits, difficulties concentrating, a lack of interest in favorite activities, and other symptoms and behaviors that are common with people who are experiencing depression.

While its possible for people with bipolar I to have hypomanic episodes, which are less severe episodes of mania, it’s more common for people with bipolar I to experience the more severe form of mania. In this type of bipolar episode, people will experience at least some of the following symptoms: jumpiness, lots of energy, a decreased need to sleep, extreme talkativeness, racing thoughts, an inability to concentrate, or an exaggerated sense of self-confidence.

Some people experiencing a manic episode might even veer into a psychotic episode, which is characterized by feelings of grandiosity. For instance, they might think that they’re going to write a Nobel prize-winning novel when they have no experience with writing.

The length of a manic episode must last at least seven days long in order to be considered mania, and most days must be characterized by the symptoms of mania. Depressive episodes usually last at least two weeks, but they can last longer.

Bipolar II

People who have bipolar II will have the same depressive symptoms that are seen with people with bipolar disorder I, but the manic symptoms will be less severe. These less severe episodes are called hypomania and are characterized by having periods of time when the patient feels overly confident, unusually happy, and more talkative and social. They will also experience higher energy levels without a clear cause, and more irritability with more rude behavior is common among adolescents.

A hypomanic episode is very similar to a manic episode except that the degree isn’t as severe. For instance, in a hypomanic episode, it’s less likely that someone will also have a psychotic episode.

Typically, a person with bipolar II can live with a normal mood for months between manic episodes. Although people with bipolar II disorder might have normal moods for long stretches at a time, this type of the disorder is more characterized by long depressive episodes than it is by manic episodes.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar might receive one or more of several types of treatment. Some of the main types of treatment that someone with bipolar disorder might receive include medications, treatment programs, drug treatment programs, psychotherapy, and electro-convulsive therapy.


There are several types of medications that could be prescribed to someone with bipolar disorder, including mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and anti-anxiety medications.

Drug Treatment Programs

Some people with bipolar disorder might be taking drugs, which can trigger episodes of mood instability. Some people also turn to certain types of drugs as a way of self-medicating.


There are several forms of therapy, and each one plays a different role in helping people manage their symptoms. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy aims to help people gain a sense of routine, stabilizing meal times, sleep rhythms, and other daily activities, which can help people manage their moods better. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people identify triggers of their episodes, and psychoeducation helps the patient and loved ones understand the condition.

Electroconvulsive Therapy

With this type of therapy, the brief seizure is caused in the brain when electrical current is passed through the brain. Electroconvulsive therapy changes the brain chemistry to reverse the symptoms. This treatment is sometimes used when the patient is unresponsive to medications.


There are times when a patient with bipolar disorder needs hospitalization to prevent them from harming themselves or others. For instance, if there’s concern that the person will commit suicide, they might be hospitalized. There might also be concern that the person will do something reckless that could endanger other people’s lives, such as what a person might do if they were in the midst of a manic episode where they were having psychotic thoughts that made them feel invincible.

Disability Benefits for Bipolar Disorder

People who have bipolar disorder and are unable to work have a couple of options, but they must meet certain criteria. With the first option, the applicant must have a diagnosis of bipolar I or bipolar II, and they must meet at least three of the following criteria to be approved for Social Security disability benefits:

  • Distractability
  • Less need for sleep
  • Unnaturally quick speech
  • Unusually high self-esteem with with false beliefs
  • Quick-changing thought patterns
  • More physical agitation
  • Risk-taking behaviors that have negative consequences the patient doesn’t recognize

Additionally, there must be evidence that there are functional difficulties that are severe in at least one area or marked in two or more areas. These functional difficulties include:

  • Difficulties remembering, using or understanding new information
  • Inability to act in socially appropriate ways
  • Difficulties completing tasks or keeping up with the pace
  • Difficulties adapting to new situations and maintaining oneself, such as an inability to pay bills, cook, get dressed, and do other activities that functioning adults do on a daily basis.

There’s also a second set of functional criteria that’s available for people who have been living in a structured environment that might mask certain inabilities. These criteria include:

  • The condition has been medically documented as serious for at least two years
  • The person has been living in a highly structured environment or receiving significant treatment that reduces the expression of symptoms.
  • The person has an inability to life or changes in the environment

Whenever making an SSDI claim, it’s always important to gather all of the medical evidence so that there’s the best chance of receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration.

How We Can Help

There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Daley can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…

If you are facing one of these situations due to Bipolar Disorder, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.

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