Many people living with bipolar disorder have difficulty dealing with their daily tasks and activities. This condition can lead to serious functioning issues, and can negatively affect personal relationships. For many, it can be difficult to hold down a job because of it. Even with more rigorous treatment, it can be a challenge to maintain.
Bipolar disorder is a disabling condition caused by chemical imbalances within the brain. This imbalance causes mood swings and fluctuations in manic activity and severe depression. If you are struggling to keep up with your work because of your bipolar disorder, or the symptoms it causes, you may want to consider filing a long-term disability claim. However, it can be challenging to get approval for disability insurance, especially for mental health conditions. Without an experienced disability attorney, it can be even more difficult. Below, we will discuss the different aspects of your claim, and how your attorney can help you throughout the process.
Is my Bipolar Disorder a Disability?
Bipolar disorder can be a disability, according to the ADA. However, this classification is not the same as what an insurance company will look for. To qualify for long-term disability insurance, you’ll need to provide paperwork showing a variety of factors. This may include objective medical evidence, proof of diagnosis, test results, and more. You will have to prove that you not only suffer from Bipolar Disorder but also show how it limits your job performance.
Which Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Are Disabling?
People living with Bipolar Disorder often experience periods of manic highs and depressive lows. Both of these states of being can be severely hindering to your daily life. It is definitely possible to be approved for disability insurance for your bipolar condition. However, you will likely need to show the full impact of how your symptoms affect your ability to work. Symptoms for this condition can vary greatly, so it is important to discuss with your doctor all of the symptoms you are experiencing.
Bipolar Disorder Cycles & Episodes
Generally, the bipolar disorder manifests as periods of either manic or depressive states. It is common for individuals to stay in these states for days or even weeks between the two. However, some people will experience cycles where they switch between the two more regularly. These manic highs and depressive lows can both be extreme, and it can be difficult to handle these mood swings, even with proper treatment. Additionally, some may experience “mixed” periods where they experience a variety of both symptoms.
Symptoms of Manic Episodes
During manic episodes of bipolar disorder, it is common to experience euphoric highs and periods of mania. It is common for people in this phase to feel high-energy and impulsive. While symptoms can vary, common manic symptoms include:
- Euphoric mood
- Decreased sleep
- High energy
- High self-esteem/confidence
- Racing thoughts
- Engaging in more risky behaviors
- Making poor decisions
Symptoms of Depressive Episodes
While experiencing the depressive phases of bipolar disorder, it is common to feel overwhelmed and distraught. This state is very similar to clinical depression. You may move or speak slower than normal. Generally, people in this state sleep more than usual. Common symptoms for depressive episodes may include
- Depressive mood
- Low energy
- Slowed speech
- Concentration problems
- Low Attention
- Worthless/hopeless feelings
- Lack of interest
- Loss of pleasure
- Changes in appetite
- Excessive weight loss/gain
- Suicidal/self-harming thoughts
Mixed State Symptoms
When experiencing a mixed state of bipolar disorder, you will likely experience a mix of symptoms from both manic and depressive conditions. Symptoms may include:
- Thoughts of suicide/self-harm
- Manic behavior
- Clinical depression
- Excessive mood swings
How Do You Get A Bipolar Diagnosis?
Generally, the insurance company will require proof of diagnosis as part of your long-term disability claim. Your doctor will be able to help diagnose your condition. Often, this diagnosis will involve a physical exam, interviews regarding medical history & symptoms, and lab testing.
While bipolar disorder doesn’t show up on blood tests or brain scans, testing can help rule out other potential health issues, and help narrow down the diagnosis. For example, brain tumors can cause changes in mood and activity similar to bipolar disorder. Often, your doctor will refer you to a mental health professional for further diagnosis and treatment of your condition. After the referral, your therapist or psychiatrist will be able to conduct a full diagnostic evaluation of your mental health. This will help them come to a proper diagnosis for your condition. Be sure to discuss any and all symptoms you have been experiencing with your doctors. Otherwise, bipolar disorder can often be mistaken for depression if you do not properly report your manic phases.
A family history of bipolar or other mental health conditions can be important to discuss as well. mental health conditions can be hereditary. Additionally, your mental health professional may want to speak with your spouse, close friends, or family members about your condition. This is so they can get outside perspectives of your condition. Both men and women can suffer from bipolar disorder. Usually, most people start noticing symptoms during their 20s. Roughly 85% of people with bipolar have a family history of depression or other mental health issues.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Generally, the disability insurance company will want to know which type of bipolar disorder you were diagnosed with. There are 5 main classifications for this condition.
Bipolar Affective Disorder 1
This form of Bipolar Disorder is where you have extremely high manic episodes, usually followed by a major depressive phase. Overall, this classification is known for its extreme manic phases, which can reach the point of a psychotic episode.
Bipolar Affective Disorder 2
Also known as “Swinging Bipolar,” this condition is classified by a more constant shift between extreme depressive states, and a more “average” state. While manic phases are possible, with this type, they are less common. Generally, those with type 2 do not suffer from psychotic hypomanic states like type 1 might. However, those with type 2 suffer from much harsher depressive states.
Cyclothymic disorder is a term used for a bipolar diagnosis that has lasted longer than 2 years, where the individual suffers from both hypomanic and major depressive episodes. Usually, this is a precursor diagnosis to type 1 or type 2, and it may develop into one of the above types.
Rapid Cycling Bipolar
This type of bipolar disorder is often classified by common shifting between phases of hypomanic, manic, mixed, stable, depressive, and major depressive episodes. phases may a few days or even months at a time, but you often cycle through different stages quickly.