Disability Benefits for Bipolar Disorder

Understanding Disability Benefits: SSDI and SSI

Social Security Disability
Geri Lavrov / Moment / Getty Images

For many people with bipolar disorder, the ability to maintain substantial gainful activity (SGA) -- the ability to work -- is seriously compromised. Debilitating depressions, manic-based bad decisions, struggles with medications and side effects, as well as psychotic features, panic attacks and other extreme symptoms of this illness, make it difficult for some to obtain or hold a job.

  • Why do those with bipolar disorder have so much trouble working? I get so anxious thinking about it. How many times have I quit and walked out? How many jobs have I had since I was a teenager? I’ve been stressed even being a cashier ... watching the clock, anxiety, anger, irritability, depression. When I am hypomanic, I get all the jobs. I take a job, go to work happily, but then it starts to go downhill. I sometimes have 4 to 6 weeks, sometimes 1 to 2 days before I end up quitting or getting fired.
    ~ Wendy


  • My problem is usually attendance -- getting to work on time or at all. I've been either almost or actually fired from every job I've ever had for that reason. I do good work when I'm there (and well), but getting my act together well enough to get there is the problem.
    ~ MJ

The problems with loss of gainful activity are obvious. No work equals no money and no insurance. No money equates to unpaid bills, late fees, compounding interest. No insurance means accumulating medical bills and missed prescriptions. All of this adds up to additional stress with the possibility of exacerbated or triggered episodes. The cycle spirals.

So what can be done? In the United States, a possible solution may be disability benefits from Social Security. In this series of articles, we explore this option.

Understanding Disability Benefits

  1. What is Disability?
  2. Do I Qualify for Disability?
  3. Is Bipolar Disorder a Qualified Condition for Disability?
  1. How Do I Start My Disability Application?
  2. What Information and Paperwork Do I Need?
  3. What Happens with My Application?
  4. How Long Will It Take to Get Benefits?
  5. What Benefits Will I Get?
  6. Who Can Help Me?

Other Ways to Cope with Bipolar Disorder

Coping with bipolar disorder can be challenging. Here are some additional strategies that can help:

  • Learn about bipolar disorder. Education about your condition can empower you and motivate you to stick to your treatment plan. Help educate your family and friends about what you're going through.
  • Stay focused on your goals. Recovery from bipolar disorder can take time. Stay motivated by keeping your recovery goals in mind and reminding yourself that you can work to repair damaged relationships and other problems caused by your mood swings.
  • Join a support group. Support groups for people with bipolar disorder can help you connect to others facing similar challenges and share experiences.
  • Find healthy outlets. Explore healthy ways to channel your energy, such as hobbies, exercise and recreational activities.
  • Learn ways to relax and manage stress. Yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation or other relaxation techniques can be helpful.

Continue Reading