Is bipolar a disability?
Is bipolar a disability? This is a question I struggle with almost daily. I receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). My psychiatrist and therapist wrote letters and did functional reports saying I could not continue doing the kind of work I have done for the past 25 years. My orthopaedic surgeon wrote a letter saying I couldn't stand on my feet to take a job in a poultry plant or at Walmart. My primary care physician wrote a letter saying I was morbidly obese, which also limits the kind of work I can do. I have not worked for nearly two years. So legally, I am disabled.Read the Bipolar-Lives.com Guide to Social Security Disability Payments for Bipolar Disorder
But I do not feel disabled. I feel differently abled. I am in school part time studying for a Masters in Social Work. This is the second semester I've taken classes. So far, I have earned As in every class. I am learning a lot. That said, I had to declare a disability in order to succeed. My psychiatrist had to write a letter to the university's Disability Resource Center asking for accommodations. They accommodate my need to manage my symptoms by letting me go through the program part time. Otherwise, I couldn't keep up with the work without triggering symptoms.
My goal is to graduate, find a part-time job where I can manage my symptoms and get off SSDI. As much as I tell myself I am differently abled, it affects my self-image to be labeled as disabled.
That said, if you can’t work and you need the income, here are the criteria your physician will have to document in writing. In addition, a physician will have to document that you cannot do other kinds of work. For me, the hardest part was accepting that if I was eligible then I should not feel guilty about submitting the application. That’s what I keep telling myself.
The disabily requirements for bipolar order are described below:
12.04 Affective Disorders: Characterized by a disturbance of mood, accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. Mood refers to a prolonged emotion that colors the whole psychic life; it generally involves either depression or elation.
The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied, or when the requirements in C are satisfied.
A. Medically documented persistence, either continuous or intermittent, of one of the following:
1. Depressive syndrome characterized by at least four of the following:
a. Anhedonia or pervasive loss of interest in almost all activites; or
b. Appetite disturbance with change in weight; or
c. Sleep disturbance; or
d. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or
e. Decreased energy; or
f. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness; or
g. Difficulty concentrating or thinking; or
h. Thoughts of suicide; or
i. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking; or
2. Manic syndrome characterized by at least three of the following:
a. Hyperactivity; or
b. Pressure of speech; or
c. Flight of ideas; or
d. Inflated self-esteem; or
e. Decreased need for sleep; or
f. Easy distractability; or
g. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences which are not recognized; or
h. Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking;
3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently characterized by either or both syndromes);
B. Resulting in at least two of the following:
1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or
2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or
4. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration;
C. Medically documented history of a chronic affective disorder of at least 2 years' duration that has caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do basic work activities, with symptoms or signs currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:
1. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration; or
2. A residual disease process that has resulted in such marginal adjustment that even a minimal increase in mental demands or change in the environment would be predicted to cause the individual to decompensate; or
3. Current history of 1 or more years' inability to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement, with an indication of continued need for such an arrangement.