Visualization of Bipolar DisorderA person with bipolar disorder experiences severe mood swings ranging from extreme highs, or mania, to extreme lows, or depression. These mood swings can occur rarely or frequently, but when they do occur, they are often significantly disruptive.

According to the Mayo Clinic, bipolar mood swings can impact a person’s:

  • Sleep
  • Energy
  • Activity
  • Judgment
  • Behavior
  • Ability to think clearly

In other words, bipolar disorder can significantly affect a person’s ability to work. If this happens to you, how will you pay your bills? How will you support yourself if you can’t work? Social Security disability may be an option.

Social Security Disability Eligibility

Social Security disability is a critical benefit for many people with bipolar disorder. Social Security disability benefits can provide you with some financial support when you can’t maintain a full-time job.

Bipolar disorder is a specific condition included in the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments. According to Section 12.04 of the Adult Listing of Impairments, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if you experience at least three of the following:

  • Pressured speech
  • Flight of ideas
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Distractibility
  • Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized
  • Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.

Additionally, one of the following must be true:

  • You have an extreme limitation of one or marked limitation of two of the following: (1) understanding, remembering or applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or (4) adapting or managing yourself.
  • Your bipolar disorder is serious and persistent. In other words, you have a medically documented history of bipolar disorder for at least two years, and you present evidence of both: (1) medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting that is ongoing and that diminishes your symptoms; and (2) marginal adjustment or the minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or demands that are not part of your daily life.

To support your application, you should provide evidence that describes:

  • How long you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar syndrome. The Social Security Administration requires that you have been diagnosed for over 12 months before you can be approved. Therefore, you should submit paperwork that shows when you were diagnosed with bipolar and how long you have lived with the symptoms.
  • Your long-term diagnosis. The Social Security Administration must also see that your symptoms are ongoing. There is no cure for bipolar illness, but the Social Security Administration needs to understand that treatment options have not worked well enough to manage your bipolar symptoms.
  • The treatment you’re using. Even though treatments might not work effectively enough for you, the Social Security Administration will still want to know what treatments you’ve tried and continue to use to manage your symptoms. Submit all treatments, including those that had a small impact on your bipolar symptoms.
  • How bipolar disorder stops you from being able to work. Perhaps the most important part of your application is where you show how bipolar has stopped you from being able to work. Showing how your bipolar disorder symptoms have prevented you from holding any type of job—including sedentary and physical labor—will help you get approved.

Additional information may also be necessary to support your application.

Get Help Before Applying for Social Security Disability

Most initial Social Security disability applications are denied. These denials often include many applications that should result in Social Security disability benefits. However, any slight mistake on the application or the failure to provide necessary evidence could result in a denial of benefits. If this happens to you, then you will need to appeal before you can receive Social Security disability benefits.

Our experienced Social Security disability lawyers don’t want this to happen to you. Instead, we want you to get the fair benefits that you deserve as quickly as possible. Call us today to find out how we may be able to help you and to learn more about your rights.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer