Social Security Disability – Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder – Condition, Symptoms and Social Security Disability

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness. It causes severe changes in a person’s mood during active phases of the claimant’s illness. The person suffering from bipolar disorder may exhibit disordered or confused thinking, bizarre behavior, and other psychotic symptoms which last for extended periods of time.

As used in Social Security disability cases, bipolar disorder is classified as an affective disorder and is characterized by a disturbance of mood accompanied by a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome. The claimant must show that he or she is subject to prolonged periods of severe depression and/or elation, and that he or she has endured these mood disturbances for a lengthy period of time. Due to these periods of depression and elation, the claimant is left unable to function in the workplace.

Medical basis for claim

Disability examiners and administrative law judges use the Listings of Impairments manual (“Blue Book”) as their guide to determine whether a claimant meets or does not meet the Social Security Administration’s requirements for total disability. The Blue Book listing for Affective Disorders is found in Listing 12.04, and list the characteristics of both depression and manic syndromes. This Listing is divided into three parts as follows:

•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 activities;

• b. Appetite disturbance with change in weight;

• c. Sleep disturbance;

• d. Psychomotor agitation or retardation;

• e. Decreased energy;

• f. Feelings of guilt or worthlessness;

• g. Difficulty concentrating or thinking;

• 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 distractibility; or

• g. Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences which are not recognized; or

• h. Hallucinations, delusions or paranoid thinking; or

•3. Bipolar syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by full the symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes; and,

•B. Resulting in at least two of the following:

•1. Marked restrictions of activities of daily living;

•2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning ;

•3. Marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence of pace;

•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 on the ability to do basic work activities and one of the following:

•1. Repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration;

•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;

•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.

To establish a claim under this Listing, the claimant must meet the requirements described in both sections A and B, or the requirements described in section C. These requirements are complex, technical and contain a number of vaguely defined terms. These are difficult standards to meet.

It is imperative that the claimant present medical records documenting the history of his or her psychiatric treatment. These should include admission reports, discharge reports, and doctor’s treatment notes from emergency rooms, hospitals, mental health facilities, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and family physician. Obtain these medical records for as many prior years as possible. An opinion from your treating psychiatrist or psychologist describing your symptoms and condition in detail and with reference to the Listing requirements is critical to establishing your claim.

Getting help with your claim

Pursuing a claim for Social Security Disability benefits on your on is difficult, and you should consider employing a qualified attorney to assist you. Your attorney can help you evaluate your medical records and help obtain your doctor’s responses to a questionnaire designed to satisfy the very specific requirements of the Listings for depression.


An experienced attorney familiar with Social Security disability law can help you protect your rights and can help you get the benefits you deserve. We have the knowledge, experience and skill to assist you in dealing with the process of obtaining help from these Social Security benefits programs. We represent disabled individuals in SSA Disability claims throughout Georgia including Acworth, Canton, Cartersville, Dallas, Kennesaw, Johns Creek, LaGrange, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, and Woodstock. Contact us today to discuss your situation and the benefits you are be entitled to receive.

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