– This blog was written by Brooke Lamberti, B.S. Psychology, and has been clinically reviewed by Jason Kuna, LPC, NCC, MBA –
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. It can be a challenging condition to live with, impacting many aspects of a person’s life, including their ability to work. Many people with bipolar disorder wonder if they can qualify for disability benefits and whether or not their condition is considered a disability.
In this blog, we will explore the question of whether bipolar disorder is a disability and whether someone with the condition can qualify for disability benefits.
Is Bipolar Disorder a Disability?
The answer to this question is yes; bipolar disorder is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). These laws define a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including but not limited to working, walking, seeing, and learning.
Bipolar disorder can significantly impact a person’s ability to work and perform other daily activities. The condition can cause severe mood swings, including episodes of mania and depression, that can interfere with a person’s ability to concentrate, make decisions, and communicate effectively.
In addition, people with bipolar disorder may experience other symptoms that can make it difficult to work, such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and irritability. These symptoms can make it challenging to maintain employment, particularly in high-stress jobs or those requiring significant focus and concentration.
Can You Get Disability for Bipolar Disorder?
The short answer is yes; it is possible to qualify for disability benefits if you have bipolar disorder. However, the process of applying for disability benefits can be complicated, and there is no guarantee that your application will be approved.
To be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you must meet specific criteria, including having a qualifying disability. In the case of bipolar disorder, you must provide medical evidence demonstrating the severity of your condition and its impact on your ability to work.
This evidence may include medical records, doctor’s notes, and other documentation that outlines the specific symptoms you experience and how they affect your ability to perform job-related tasks. It is essential to provide detailed and thorough information in your application to increase your chances of being approved for disability benefits.
It is also important to note that the Social Security Administration has a strict definition of disability, and not all applicants will meet the criteria. However, if you are denied benefits, you can appeal the decision and seek legal assistance to help you navigate the process.
The American Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Reasonable Accommodation for Bipolar Disorder
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, and other areas of life. Under the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including those with bipolar disorder.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to the workplace or job duties that allows an employee with a disability to perform their job effectively. The accommodation must be reasonable, meaning that it does not cause undue hardship for the employer. Undue hardship is defined as a significant difficulty or expense that would make the accommodation impractical or unreasonable.
Examples of reasonable accommodations for bipolar disorder
Employers can provide many reasonable accommodations to employees with bipolar disorder, depending on the nature of the job and the employee’s specific needs. Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Flexible work hours: Employees with bipolar disorder may need flexible work schedules to accommodate mood or medication regimen changes. Allowing them to adjust their work hours or work from home can help them manage their symptoms and maintain productivity.
- Modified job duties: Employers can modify employees’ job duties to suit their abilities and limitations better. For example, an employee with bipolar disorder may struggle with a high-stress environment, so their job duties could be adjusted to reduce stress and allow for breaks as needed.
- Communication strategies: Employers can implement communication strategies that work well for employees with bipolar disorder. This may include regular check-ins with a supervisor, email communication instead of in-person meetings, or written instructions instead of verbal instructions.
- Leave of absence: If an employee is experiencing a severe episode of bipolar disorder, they may need to take a leave of absence from work to focus on their treatment and recovery. Employers can provide job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or other applicable laws.
How to request a reasonable accommodation
If you have bipolar disorder and need reasonable accommodation at work, you should communicate with your employer about your needs. This can be done through a formal request, either verbally or in writing. You may need to provide medical documentation to support your request.
Employers must interact with employees to determine what reasonable accommodations are needed and whether they can be provided without causing undue hardship. Suppose an employer denies a request for a reasonable accommodation. In that case, the employee may have the right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or pursue legal action.
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with bipolar disorder and other disabilities. Many accommodations can be made to help employees with bipolar disorder perform their job duties effectively. Employees with bipolar disorder should communicate with their employer about their needs and work together to find reasonable accommodations that work for both parties.
In conclusion, bipolar disorder is a disability that can significantly impact a person’s ability to work and perform daily activities. If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and struggle to maintain employment, you may be eligible for disability benefits. However, the process of applying for disability benefits can be complex, and it is essential to seek help from a qualified professional to increase your chances of success.
Dr. John G Kuna and Associates offers in-person and online therapy in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, as well as 13 other convenient locations across Eastern Pennsylvania. If you’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or believe you may have Bipolar, we can assist you in reaching your goals to get your mental health back on track. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our caring and compassionate therapists, counselors, or psychologists.