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Bipolar disorder and Social Security Disability

The story of Jesse Jackson, Jr., a congressman from Illinois, has focused attention on the mental illness called bipolar disorder. Jackson was hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic for the condition, which results in mood swings that go from severe depression to extreme happiness (known as being manic).

This illness can affect anyone, from members of Congress and professionals to students and low-wage workers. The symptoms differ from person to person, but can include:

  • Manic symptoms
  • Feeling high or excited for a long time
  • Feeling jumpy, wired or irritable
  • Talking fast and changing abruptly from one topic to another
  • Being distracted easily
  • Starting new projects or developing many new enthusiasms
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as shopping sprees or reckless gambling
  • Not sleeping
  • Depression symptoms
  • Feeling worried or empty over many days or weeks
  • Losing interest in activities that the person once enjoyed
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Sleeping a lot or sleeping at unusual times
  • Changing eating habits

Several conditions have some of these symptoms. The key in bipolar disorder is that patients go from one extreme to the other and have manic and depressive symptoms at different times. Although all people with bipolar disorder have both types of symptoms, their severity varies.

Treatment depends on how much the illness limits a patient's ability to function. Medical providers may offer medication or may recommend that a patient move to a group home or other institution.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes bipolar disorder. People who have been diagnosed with the condition are eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits. However, to apply for SSD benefits, you must get documentation from doctors and psychiatrists. Coordinating this can be a major challenge. That's why it is important to get help with your claim.

If you or a loved one have bipolar disorder and are seeking SSD benefits, your best bet is to consult Binder & Binder®, the national Social Security Disability advocates. We have helped thousands of people in the United States obtain the benefits they need and deserve. Find out how we can help you.

Sources: Social Security Administration website, "Disability Evaluation Under Social Security, Mental Disorders - Adult," Sep. 2008; National Institute of Mental Health website, "What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?"

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