Do You Have A Case?

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
  • Irritability
  • Decreased sleep
  • High energy
  • High self-esteem/confidence
  • Racing thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Engaging in more risky behaviors
  • Impulsivity
  • 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
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed speech
  • Concentration problems
  • Low Attention
  • Oversleeping
  • Insomnia
  • 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:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Thoughts of suicide/self-harm
  • Manic behavior
  • Clinical depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Delusions
  • 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

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.

young bearded man with bipolar disorder discussing his condtiion with an older male therapist in a white coat

Bipolar Affective Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified

NOS Bipolar is a type that does not fit into the other above classifications. You experience many of the symptoms of bipolar, but none of the specific classifying characteristics. Generally, this is a diagnosis to show that you have symptoms in line with bipolar, but are not yet showing signs of what specific type you are living with. This can be a precursor diagnosis, as well. This is still a form of bipolar disorder, and is a serious mental health condition. Therefore, it should still be treated as such.

Proving Your Disability Due to Bipolar Disorder

Both sides of the coin can be debilitating with bipolar disorder. It is a condition that can be severely detrimental to your overall career. However, your insurance company will need more than a diagnosis to be convinced. Because of this, you will need to prove how your condition affects your ability to perform at work. When submitting your claim, you will likely need to show evidence of how your condition affects your job performance overall.

Manic Episodes and Work

Episodes of mania can affect your work in a number of ways. High energy and irritability can affect your relationships with potential clients. Your lack of focus can affect your productivity. For some people, it can be hard to get to work during manic episodes, as they may feel like they can blow it off for the day. all of these can severely impact your functionality and productivity in the workplace.

Depressive Episodes and Work

Depression can make it hard to get out of bed and get to work. If you manage to make it in, severe fatigue and lack of focus can make it difficult to do your job. It can be unable to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Low energy and lack of interest can seriously limit your ability to perform at work. During depressive episodes, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by stress, which can make it harder to reach deadlines or productivity quotas effectively.

Doctor’s Records of Your Condition

Records from one or more of your doctors can be important in building a solid case for the insurance company. Generally, you should include records from your primary care physician, as well as any mental health professionals you work with. These records will usually cover a number of important aspects of your bipolar condition. This includes positive mental status exams, frequency & severity of symptoms, direct observations, and medications you are taking.

Neuropsychological Evaluation

A Neuropsychological Evaluation is a form of objective medical evidence that can be important to your insurance claim. This evaluation provides objective reporting of the cognitive deficits you deal with on a daily basis. This test can show evidence of concentration deficits, limits in focus, emotional limitations, IQ testing, and more. The evaluation also has validity testing measures to help provide reliability for the report.

Bipolar Disorder and Appropriate Treatment

The insurance company will require proof that you are receiving appropriate treatment for your condition. Even after you are approved for your insurance claim, you will still need to continue seeking out care. Otherwise, the insurance company may halt your benefits under a non-compliance clause. Appropriate treatment will generally come in multiple forms. Be sure to follow the recommendations of your doctors, and take your prescribed medications. If you don’t follow through with treatment plans laid out by your doctors, the disability insurance company may claim non-compliance.

Therapy for Your Bipolar Disorder

Your doctor may recommend that you seek out psychotherapy. This will often come in the form of treatment from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Treatment methods from these mental health professionals may include counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps identify your negative thoughts or triggers and seeks to find coping methods or behavioral adjustments. Other possible treatment options that have shown results include social rhythm therapy and family-focused therapy. They may also recommend various outpatient treatment programs that can help you develop systems to recognize and control certain symptoms.

Medications for Your Condition

A number of medications can be effective in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder. Your doctors may prescribe some combination of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. It is not uncommon for individuals to be prescribed multiple medications to help them with their Bipolar Disorder.


If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or dealing with a psychotic episode, it may be beneficial to go for in-patient hospitalization. In-patient treatment for mental healthcare often includes therapies and medication for mood stabilization in a safe and controlled environment.

Mental Illness Limitations on Your Long-Term Disability Policies

When filing for long-term disability insurance for mental illness, it is important to check if your policy includes a Mental Illness Limitation. While policies may vary, it is common for a Mental Illness Limitation to limit your benefits to 2 years. However, some policies may have an even smaller limit.

If you are disabled solely due to your mental health condition, and no additional physical disability, your benefits may run out when you reach the Mental Illness Limitation. There are some exemptions to MIL’s, but they are generally reserved for specific conditions, such as depression. However, if you can demonstrate objective proof of your cognitive limitations, such as with a neuropsychological evaluation, your benefits may extend past the limit.

Discuss with your disability attorney your options regarding your policy.

Can an Attorney Help Me Get Long-Term Disability for Bipolar Disorder?

If you are looking to file a long-term disability claim for your mental health condition, you should seek out an experienced attorney. At D’Agostino & Associates, we help people living with disabling conditions such as Bipolar Disorder file long-term disability claims. We help you through the process step by step to help you build a strong case. Our law team is here for you.

At D’Agostino & Associates, our team of lawyers can help you sort through all the details, understand what you are entitled to, and fight to get what you deserve. D’Agostino & Associates P.C. has offices in New York and New Jersey. Contact us, or call us at 1-888-245-2924 to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.