Is Bipolar a Disability?
Table of Contents
If you are suffering from the effects of bipolar disorder, it is probably having a huge impact on your life. The mood shifts make daily life unpredictable and hard, for sure, but is bipolar a disability? Read on to learn about bipolar and what constitutes a disability.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
A mental illness like bipolar can disrupt all aspects of daily life. Bipolar disorder is difficult to endure, with intense shifts in mood and energy levels. These rapid changes make it hard to complete basic tasks that others can so easily handle.
According to the NIMH, bipolar afflicts 2.6% of adults in the U.S. of which 82% are deemed severe. Some are severe enough to even qualify for disability benefits.
The types of bipolar include:
Bipolar I Disorder: Dramatic mood swings between manic episodes and depressive episodes, with normal periods in between.
Bipolar II Disorder: At least one depressive episode and one hypomanic (less severe mania) episode. Depression symptoms are more prevalent.
Cyclothymic Disorder: Milder versions of both mania and depression that occur often.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified: Symptoms of mania and depression that do not meet diagnostic criteria.
People battling bipolar disorder will often isolate because they feel no one understands them or wants to be around them. Substance abuse is common among people with bipolar disorder. This further complicates the symptoms and often leads to high-risk behaviors.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder features extreme swings between manic, or high, episodes and depressive, or low, episodes.
Symptoms of mania include:
- Racing thoughts and difficulty staying focused.
- Rapid speech.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Irritability or agitation.
- Decreased sleep.
- Impulsive behaviors.
- Risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or having risky sex.
- Psychosis (hallucinations or delusions).
Symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sadness.
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair.
- Intense fatigue.
- Sleep problems.
- Weigh loss or gain.
- Loss of interest in doing the things they once enjoyed.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Suicidal thoughts.
The Effects of Bipolar on Daily Living
Someone living with bipolar disorder faces many challenges. The abrupt mood changes can come on swiftly and may linger for many days. While in a manic phase, the person may have a burst of energy and sharp concentration, and feel very inspired. Then, often without warning, a depressive episode will swoop in. This makes daily life unpredictable for both the person and anyone in their orbit.
Bipolar is hard on relationships as well, both personal and work relationships suffer. Bipolar can make it very hard to sustain a relationship or to stay employed. Both coworkers and spouses or partners become upset with the constant mood swings and unreliable behavior.
Is Bipolar a Disability?
Someone struggling with bipolar disorder may find that they simply cannot function at a job. Sometimes this mental health disorder causes severe impairment that makes it impossible to work at a job. If so, the person can apply for SSDI benefits.
The detailed criteria for qualifying for SSDI are available in something called the Blue Book. It helps the person know if they meet the threshold to qualify for benefits. To qualify the person must meet this threshold:
Impairment in the workplace that emerges after a history of consistent bipolar episodes, and results in two of these:
- Severe limitation of daily activity.
- Being unable to interact normally with coworkers or management.
- Recurring episodes of decompensation, which is the deterioration of mental health despite treatment that had previously helped symptoms.
Even if the person doesn’t meet the above criteria, they can still qualify if:
- They have a medical history that documents at least two years with a diagnosed affective (mood) disorder like bipolar.
- Impairment has rendered the person limited in their ability to perform the job duties.
- The mental health disorder is deteriorating.
- The applicant would further deteriorate with an increase in mental demands on the job.
To see if your bipolar is a disability, begin researching here.
Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use
People who struggle with bipolar often turn to substances to help reduce the symptoms. In this way, they self-medicate the symptoms with drugs or alcohol, which can lead to a co-occurring substance use disorder.
Alcohol is the most common substance that is used by people with bipolar. These co-occurring disorders are very prevalent among those with bipolar disorder. Alcohol has a calming effect, so when someone is in a state of mania, it quiets the symptoms down.
A dual diagnosis treatment program is the best setting for someone with both bipolar and a co-occurring substance problem.
How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
Bipolar is treated with both psych meds and targeted therapies. Some of the therapies that have been shown to help people with bipolar include:
- EMDR. Some people with bipolar disorder have a history of trauma, so EMDR can help reduce symptoms. EMDR uses a system of rapid back and forth eye movements to help those with bipolar to work through a trauma event.
- Light therapy. People with bipolar often struggle with sleep disorders. Their circadian rhythms are off, which throws the sleep cycle out of kilter. Light therapy can help to reestablish regular sleep patterns. Light therapy involves the use of a special light box. The device exposes the person to a certain number of hours of light each day, which helps restore sleep quality.
- IPSRT. IPSRT has been shown to help younger people with this disorder. IPSRT helps regulate both biological and social rhythms. It does this by teaching medication adherence, stress management, and how to reduce disruptions in social rhythms.
- Lifestyle changes. Keeping up healthy habits will reduce the bipolar symptoms. Getting daily exercise, eating a healthy diet, and keeping a regular sleep schedule all help improve quality of life.
Mental Health Hope Offers Help for Bipolar Disorder
Mental Health Hope is a free resource that provides guidance and support for people struggling with bipolar disorder. If you believe your bipolar is a disability, let us find you some help. Call us today at (877) 967-9274.
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