Does Depression, Mania, or Bipolar Disorder Qualify Me for Social Security Benefits?
Affective disorders like depression, mania, and bipolar disorder affect more than 17% of Americans. In some cases, these disorders can be severe enough to make working a full-time job impossible; the Social Security Administration awards benefits to people that they find disabled due to depression, mania, or bipolar disorder.
If you suffer from depression, you may experience any of the following symptoms:
- general low mood in all aspects of life
- inability to experience pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
- thoughts or feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, and/or self-hatred
- unpleasant delusions or hallucinations
- poor concentration and memory
- withdrawal from social situations
- reduced sex drive
- thoughts of suicide
- insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)
- hypersomnia (difficulty waking, excessive sleepiness)
- digestive problems
- changes in appetite, accompanied by weight loss or gain
Depression is often accompanied by anxiety disorders.
Bipolar disorder — formerly known as manic-depressive disorder — carries with it many of the same symptoms of depression, and the two are grouped together in the Listings. However, people with bipolar disorder, in addition to experiencing episodes of depressive symptoms, can experience episodes of mania. Manic symptoms can include:
- elevated mood or euphoria
- increase in energy
- decreased need for sleep (as little as 3-4 hours per night) or multiple days without sleep
- pressured speech or racing thoughts
- low attention span or easily distracted
- impaired judgment or abnormal behavior
- substance abuse
- aggressive or intolerant behavior
- grandiose or delusional ideas
- increase in sex drive
- psychosis or break with reality
These symptoms can also occur in a less extreme form, known as hypomania.
While bipolar disorder usually means experiencing episodes of depression and episodes of mania, some people may suffer from mixed affective disorder, which leads to manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.
Depression, mania, and bipolar disorder are included in the Social Security Listings of Impairments, which means that if your illness has been diagnosed by a qualified medical practitioner and is severe enough to keep you from working, you have an excellent chance of receiving benefits. However, because there are no medical tests for these mental illnesses, it is vital that you see a psychologist or psychiatrist who can support your application.
Improving Your Chances for Obtaining Benefits
It's particularly important to see a psychologist or psychiatrist who can document the progression of your illness, because this can sometimes be the only official record of your depression, mania, or bipolar disorder. If you live with or frequently see family members or friends, ask them to document how your behavior has changed over time as well. While manic periods can occasionally be pleasant, it's very important that you follow any course of treatment that you're given; noncompliance can lead to a denial of benefits.
- Keep a detailed medical history, including a calendar of notes about how you feel each day;
- Record any usual activities you could not do on any given day.
- Keep a detailed history of your current and past medications;
- See a health care professional regularly and take the medication that he/she gives you so that he/she can support your application for benefits.
- Ask your doctor or other health care professional to track the course of your symptoms and to keep a record of any evidence of fatigue, irritability, forgetfulness, unusual behavior, or other hard-to-document symptoms.
- Keep records of how your illness affected you on the job.
- US Social Security Administration's official listing for Affective Disorders.