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Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that can be disabling. If your symptoms are severe enough that they keep you from working for 12 months or more, then you might be eligible for SSD and SSI benefits. Social Security Disability benefits are available for people who have paid into the disability system. Find out more about how to apply for Social Security Disability benefits here. Once you meet the work requirements for SSD eligibility, you will also need meet the SSA’s medical requirements for Bipolar Disorder.

Supplemental Security Income benefits (SSI) are also available for those who do not have an earnings history. Likewise, it is also for those who haven’t earned enough quarters of coverage to be eligible for SSD. SSI benefits are also available for children who are below eighteen years old. Find out more about SSI benefits here.

Bipolar Disorder is also known as Manic Depressive Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is characterized by cyclic mania. In other words, you will experience a period of extreme euphoria followed by a period of severe depression. However, Bipolar Disorder is not just mood disorder. Instead, it is a mental condition that has symptoms of several mood disorders. Keep reading below to learn more about the applying for disability benefits if you have Bipolar Disorder.


There are four types of bipolar disorder:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder: this type includes manic episodes that last for at least seven days or that are so severe they require hospitalization. Depressive episodes usually last for at least two weeks.
  2. Bipolar II Disorder: this type has both depressive and manic episodes. However, the manic periods are less extreme than in Bipolar I Disorder.
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder: this type involves numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms that have gone on for at least two years. If a person has brief periods of depression and brief periods of hypomania, they may be experiencing cyclothymic disorder.
  4. Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders: this type involves bipolar symptoms that do not meet the criteria for one of the other diagnoses.

Bipolar disorder as a problem that makes life harder - symbolize

There are two types of Bipolar Disorder that the SSA considers when evaluating whether you are eligible for benefits. They are Bipolar I and Bipolar II. The main difference between the two types of the disorder is the severity of the symptoms.


Bipolar I disorder involves more severe mood episodes than bipolar II disorder, which has milder forms of hypomania.  For the diagnosis of Bipolar I to apply, you must have at least one severe manic episode. A manic episode involves restlessness, feelings of extreme happiness, and an unusual amount of energy. However, it also involves trouble concentrating, poor sleep, and involvement in risky behavior. The manic episode is usually so severe that you require hospitalization.  Additionally, the symptoms are so severe that anyone who knows you would be able to tell that something is wrong.

For example, if you are having a manic episode, you may run up credit card debt for extravagant purchases, like a sport car or designer clothing. Another example of manic behavior is gambling with money that you do not have. Sometimes, people in a manic episode engage in risky sexual behavior, like cheating on a spouse or having sex with multiple strangers. Manic episodes can also include a number of days in a row where you cannot sleep.

Another term to know is rapid cycling. This occurs when a person has more than four mood episodes within one year. There are other specific requirements that must be met for someone to have this as part of their diagnosis. A mental health professional will be able to distinguish whether this might be part of your diagnosis.


The diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder is different than Bipolar I. It is different because it involves a major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks. Also, Bipolar II will involve at least one hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is a period of mania that is less severe than the manic episode outlined above. If you have Bipolar II, your  manic episodes will not usually require you to be put in the hospital. Untreated, an episode of hypomania can last anywhere from a few days to several months. Most commonly, symptoms continue for a few weeks to a few months.

Sometimes, at the outset of mental symptoms, Bipolar II is diagnosed as depression. The reason for that is depressive symptoms usually cause a person to seek medical attention. It is only over time that the other symptoms of Bipolar II come to the notice of a treating mental health provider.

Almost anyone can develop Bipolar II disorder. Approximately 2.5% of the U.S. population suffers from some form of bipolar disorder, which is nearly 6 million people. People with Bipolar II disorder can benefit from preventive drugs that level out the highs and lows of mood disorder. Medications can prevent the negative consequences of hypomania and they also prevent episodes of severe depression.


If you have Bipolar Disorder, then you might be eligible for SSD or SSI assistance. Social Security disability insurance benefits replace your income if you are unable to work  due to a disabling impairment. If your Bipolar Disorder symptoms are severe enough that you cannot work, then applying for Social Security disability is a good option.

In order to win benefits, you must have a mental diagnosis from a mental health practitioner. Typically, a qualified provider is either a psychologist or psychiatrist. You will need their support if you hope to obtain benefits. Additionally, you will need to see a therapist to provide ongoing counseling. Your treating providers will need to document the progression of your illness in their medical records. Ask your treating providers to write down your symptoms in their records. You will also need to be compliant with any treatment options they provide. Learn more about the importance of medical records in your disability case.


To qualify for SSD benefits, your Bipolar disorder must meet very specific Social Security Administration requirements. Under the SSA’s regulations, you must meet listing 12.04. Below, you will see the requirements for listing 12.04. Specifically, pay attention to the criteria that discusses Bipolar disorder. Reading below, you can see that Bipolar disorder requires three symptoms out the seven on the list. For example, your symptoms would qualify if you have “inflated self-esteem, flight of ideas, and decreased need for sleep.” Please note, the SSA also uses listing 12.04 to evaluate depression.


12.04 Depressive, bipolar and related disorders (see 12.00B3), satisfied by A and B, or A and C:

  1. Medical documentation of the requirements of paragraph 1 or 2:
    1. Depressive disorder, characterized by five or more of the following:
      1. Depressed mood;
      2. Diminished interest in almost all activities;
      3. Appetite disturbance with change in weight;
      4. Sleep disturbance;
      5. Observable psychomotor agitation or retardation;
      6. Decreased energy;
      7. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;
      8. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
      9. Thoughts of death or suicide.
    2. Bipolar disorder, characterized by three or more of the following:
      1. Pressured speech;
      2. Flight of ideas;
      3. Inflated self-esteem;
      4. Decreased need for sleep;
      5. Distractibility;
      6. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized; or
      7. Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.


  1. Extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
    1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
    2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
    3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see 12.00E3).
    4. Adapt or manage oneself (see 12.00E4).


  1. Your mental disorder in this listing category is “serious and persistent;” that is, you have a medically documented history of the existence of the disorder over a period of at least 2 years, and there is evidence of both:
    1. Medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support(s), or a highly structured setting(s) that is ongoing and that diminishes the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder (see 12.00G2b); and
    2. Marginal adjustment, that is, you have minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life (see 12.00G2c).

To qualify for benefits, you need to be working with a psychologist or psychiatrist to manage your illness. This professional needs to explain that you’re not functioning well enough to hold down a basic job.


If you do not meet listing 12.04, it is still possible to obtain benefits by using your residual functional capacity (RFC). Once the SSA determines that you do not meet or equal the listing, then they must examine your mental residual functional capacity (MRFC).

Your MRFC is the definition of how your bipolar symptoms impair your ability to work. For example, your bipolar disorder may prevent you from following directions at work. It may also prevent you from making decisions and remembering detailed tasks. These types of mental impairments can be outlined by your treating provider. Typically, your provider rates your mental impairments as mild, moderate, marked, or extreme.

The SSA will determine your mental RFC, based upon your medical records. They may also send you to one of their doctors for testing. Learn more about the SSA’s consultative examination here. If the SSA finds that you cannot perform unskilled work, then they may grant you benefits under a “medical-vocational allowance.”

bipolar disorder symbol


Psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, is an important part of treatment for bipolar disorder. During therapy, you can discuss your feelings and the behaviors that cause you problems. Talk therapy can help you understand the symptoms that hurt your ability to function in your life and job. It can also help you stay on your medications.

There are many forms of therapy that may help treat your bipolar disorder. Some examples include:

  • Behavioral therapy. This focuses on behaviors that decrease stress and negative emotions.
  • Cognitive therapy. This approach involves learning to identify and change negative patterns of thinking that can come with mood swings.
  • Interpersonal therapy. This involves relationships and reduces the strain that mental illness may place upon your relationships.
  • Social rhythm therapy. This helps you develop and maintain a normal sleep schedule and more predictable daily routines.
  • Support groups.  This involves meeting in a group setting, where you can talk to others and a therapist to help your deal with your mental symptoms.

If you don’t have medical insurance, you may need free mental health treatment. Learn more about free and low cost mental health resources in Utah. Additionally, we also have a list of free and low cost mental health resources in Nevada on our website.


When you receive treatment for bipolar disorder, you will likely obtain a prescription for medications. Mood stabilizers are medicines that treat and prevent highs (mania) and lows (depression). They also help to keep your moods from interfering with work, school, or your social life.

Examples include:

Make sure you obtain prescriptions from a qualified doctor or practitioner who understands mental health medications. Always comply with your prescription medication treatment.



To file an application for disability benefits, you either call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or file online. It is easy to file an online application on the SSA’s website. When you file your disability application, make sure you include a  description of your bipolar disorder symptoms. You will also want to write about how your disorder affects your daily life. For example, chances are that it affects your ability to socialize with family and friends. Likewise, it may also impair your ability to make decisions, focus, and complete tasks, especially at work.

Make sure that you explain how often you have manic episodes. Write about how long your panic attacks last. If you lost a job due to your panic attacks or other mental symptoms, then tell the SSA. Also, do not forget to discuss your depressive symptoms, such as insomnia, lack of appetite, or suicidal thoughts. Additionally, if you also have a physical impairment that impacts your ability to work, make sure to include it on your application. The same is true for additional mental health impairments. For example, if you have anxiety or PTSD, tell the SSA. If you have more than one diagnosis, say so in your application.


A qualified attorney can help you learn more about applying for benefits. Working with an attorney will help you make sure you have a strong case for disability benefits. If you hire Cannon Disability, we will make sure your application is complete. Likewise, we will appeal any SSA denial. We will also help you collect your medical records. Also, we will prepare you to be a better witness at your disability hearing. At your hearing, we also cross-examine the medical expert and vocational expert. These experts attend the hearing at the request of the disability judge.

The judge can hire a medical expert to attend your hearing. Typically, the medical expert is a psychologist or psychiatrist in a hearing that is about your mental condition. You will need an attorney to question the medical expert or object to testimony. The judge can also call a vocational expert (VE). The VE testifies about the kind of jobs you might be able to do with your mental impairments. Learn more here about why a vocational expert attends your hearing.

Applying for disability benefits can be a difficult process. Hiring a legal team with experience to help you through the process is a great choice. This will make the application process less overwhelming. If you think you need the assistance of legal professionals, then let us help you. Additionally, we offer a free consultation. It costs nothing to call and ask your questions.


Most importantly, we work on a contingency fee basis. This means that we do not charge you an attorney fee until we win you benefits. If we do not win your case, then you do not pay an attorney fee. How much is the fee? It is 25% of your back benefit. Also, the fee is capped at $6000. You do not pay more than the cap in attorney fees. And, 25% is usually less than the $6000 cap.

If there are costs in your case, then you pay for those costs. But, the costs are usually less than $100. You must also pay to obtain a copy of your medical records. The cost of your medical records is whatever your doctor charges for them. You will owe costs whether we win or lose your case. To hire most lawyers, you have to pay a fee upfront. However, you can’t do that because you don’t have a job. We understand that. Which is why you only pay an attorney fee if we win your disability case.

At Cannon Disability Law, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience representing clients. Learn more about our representatives on our About Us page. Our goal is to win your benefits. During our 30 year in business, we have won our clients over $100 million in past due and ongoing disability benefits. We can help you too. It is also our goal to make the process easier for you. Don’t go to court without excellent representation. Your future income, for yourself and your family, is at stake. You need to hire a firm that is on your side. After all, you paid for these benefits. They are not a handout. We want to win the disability benefits you deserve. Contact us today. We can help.

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