How to Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Bipolar Disorder in Richmond, Virginia


Bipolar disorder affects more than 10 million Americans. It is a mental disorder that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function at work, home, and school. Those of you suffering from bipolar disorder may have extreme and intense ups and downs emotionally.


People with bipolar disorder may have issues with alcohol and substance abuse as they self-medicate to reduce the intensity of their feelings. This in turn can contribute to physical problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, or strokes. Considering the impact that bipolar disorder can have on a person’s ability to concentrate, follow instructions, and interact with others, as well as the physical impairments it contributes to, it’s easy to see why bipolar disorder is such a disabling condition.


This article explains how to get Social Security disability for bipolar disorder if your symptoms prevent you from working full-time. The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines full-time work as a job that you must go to five days a week, 8 hours a day.


Please keep reading to learn more about how to qualify for SSDI benefits or Supplemental Security Income. Then call Richmond disability attorney Corey Pollard for a free consultation. We can help you apply for SSD benefitsappeal a Social Security denial, or present your case at a Social Security disability hearing so that you have the best chance possible of getting the financial help and medical coverage you deserve.


Bipolar Disorders


There are three types of bipolar disorders: bipolar I; bipolar II; and, cyclothymic disorder. These three types of bipolar disorder share many symptoms but differ in their severity, intensity, and recommended treatment.


Bipolar I Disorder


People with bipolar I disorder suffer from dramatic mood swings – one minute they may feel high and on top of the world, the next they may feel sad, hopeless, and angry. The high episodes are called episodes of mania, while the low episodes are called depression.


Because of the swings between mania and depression, bipolar disorder is sometimes referred to as “manic-depressive disorder.” These mood swings can cause serious problems with functioning.


A person is diagnosed with bipolar I disorder when he or she has had a manic episode that came before or after a hypomanic episode or a major depressive episode.


What is a manic episode?


A manic episode is a period lasting at least 1 week where a person is happy or irritable in an extreme way during the entire day or nearly all of it. During this period a person has much more energy than usual and at least three of the following symptoms:


  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Grandiosity (i.e., believing that he or she is better than others and should be treated accordingly)
  • Decreased need for sleep (it is common for a person to feel energized with less than 3 hours sleep during this period)
  • Increased talking (talking much more than usual)
  • Distractibility (during a manic episode a person has difficulty focusing and concentrating)
  • Excessive multi-tasking (during a manic episode a person may try to do several activities at once, despite having no knowledge of the activities being attempted)
  • Increased impulsive and risky behavior (reckless spending or driving, careless sex, drug use, etc.)


As you can see, these symptoms can be severe enough to cause problems at work and at home. Often times a person requires medical care during a manic episode.


What is a hypomanic episode?


A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode, but lasts a shorter period – just 4 days. Hypomanic symptoms are similar to manic symptoms, but may not be as severe.


What is a major depressive episode?


A person has a major depressive episode if he or she has at least five of the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks and has a decline from normal functioning at home:


  • Depressed mood or sadness lasting most of the day
  • Significant loss of pleasure or interest in activities that are usually enjoyed
  • Change in appetite, with accompanying weight gain or loss
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling agitated or restless
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Frequent thoughts of harming oneself.


What is rapid cycling?


If a person has four or more major depressive, manic, or hypomanic episodes in the same year, then they suffer from a type of bipolar I disorder known as rapid cycling. Though men and women are just as likely to have bipolar I disorder, women are more likely than men to suffer from rapid cycling and to have depressive symptoms.


Bipolar I Disorder and Other Mental Disorders


It is common for a person with bipolar I disorder to also suffer from other mental disorders, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety disorder. In fact, many people with bipolar I disorder also have an issue with alcohol or drugs, presumably to try to self-medicate.


People who suffer from bipolar I disorder also have an increased risk of suicide. This is another reason why it’s so important that bipolar I disorder suffers receive the appropriate treatment. Treatment often includes therapy and medications.


Bipolar II Disorder


A person has bipolar II disorder when he or she has had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. The difference between bipolar I and bipolar II disorder is that those who suffer from bipolar II disorder have had no period of mania.


Bipolar II disorder is considered less severe than bipolar I disorder, but it can cause serious problems with performing activities of daily living and functioning at work. As such, it is possible to receive Social Security disability benefits for bipolar II disorder.


Filing for Disability with Bipolar Disorder


The Social Security Administration recognizes that bipolar disorder is a serious medical condition that causes severe limitations and restrictions that may prevent a person from performing work activity at the substantial gainful activity level. If your bipolar disorder has prevented you from working at the substantial gainful activity and is expected to prevent you from performing work at that level for at least twelve continuous months, then you may qualify for disability benefits.


The Social Security Disability Guidebook evaluates bipolar disorder at Listing 12.04, which is entitled Depressive, bipolar, and related disorders. This listing shows the symptoms that the SSA will consider when determining whether your bipolar disorder is severe enough to meet the definition of disability.


The listing requires medical documentation, which is shown through office notes, therapy notes, and psychological reports, of the requirements of one of the paragraphs below:


  • Depressive disorder, characterized by at least five of the following:
    • Depressed mood
    • Diminished interest in most activities
    • Appetite change with fluctuation in weight
    • Sleep disturbance
    • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
    • Lower energy
    • Feelings of guilt or hopelessness
    • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or following instructions
    • Thoughts of death or suicide, regardless of whether acted on


  • Bipolar disorder, characterized by at least three of the following:
    • Pressured speech
    • Racing thoughts
    • Flight of ideas
    • Increased and inflated self-esteem
    • Decreased need for sleep
    • Easily distracted
    • Impulse control
    • Reckless behavior
    • Hallucinations
    • Paranoia


In addition to meeting one of the above paragraphs, you must also prove that your bipolar disorder and its symptoms affect your ability to:


  • Understand, remember, and apply information to the completion of tasks
  • Interact with others in social and work settings
  • Maintain pace and persistent
  • Adapt to changes in setting


Even if you do not meet the requirements of listing 12.04 for bipolar disorder, you may still get Social Security disability based on your age, education, acquired job skills, and your residual functional capacity (RFC).


Your RFC is what you’re able to do despite your medical impairments. Indeed, many disability claims based on bipolar disorder are awarded based on a finding that the person is unable to maintain full-time employment based on limitations and restrictions. This is why it’s important to hire a disability attorney to help you build the medical and vocational evidence in your case.


As your disability attorney for Social Security claims based on bipolar disorder in Virginia, well develop the evidence regarding:


  • How your bipolar disorder has affected your relationships
  • How many jobs you’ve lost because of your bipolar disorder
  • How often you were disciplined on the job because of symptoms related to bipolar disorder
  • The frequency of your mood swings
  • The impact of your symptoms on your energy levels and concentration
  • And much more


A Top-Rated Attorney to Help You Get Social Security Disability for Bipolar Disorder in Richmond


If your bipolar disorder is limiting your ability to function at work and at home and you are experiencing episodes of depression and mania, then you may be entitled to SSDI benefits or SSI in Richmond, Virginia. Call us today if you are under the care of a doctor, taking medication, or have had a psychiatric hospitalization for your bipolar disorder.


We have helped many clients with bipolar disorder get approved for SSD benefits. We understand how difficult maintaining concentration, attention, and relationships can be with your bipolar disorder. And we want to help you get the benefits you deserve. There is no fee unless you get approved.


Call today: (804) 251-1620 or (757) 810-5614.