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Social Security Disability Benefits For Bipolar Disorder

Helping Clients Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder Obtain Social Security Benefits

Bipolar disorder is one of the most prevalent psychological conditions for which people apply for Social Security Disability. Typically, bipolar disorder is diagnosed by a family doctor, treating psychologist, or psychiatrist. In general terms, bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of manic episodes preceded or followed by major depressive episodes. If you should need help applying for disability benefits due to bipolar disorder, contact our team.

What Are the Causes of Bipolar Disorder?

As with most psychiatric illnesses, the exact causes are often difficult to pin down. However, medical literature seems to indicate that certain factors increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for someone to experience their first bout. These factors generally include genetics, whether you have a close relative, like a parent, sibling, or child with bipolar disorder or other psychiatric severe illness.

Oftentimes, genetic disorders lead to hormonal imbalances that can play a role in developing the disease. Traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, a very unpleasant divorce, and job loss have also been correlated with developing bipolar disorder. There is some evidence that substance abuse can cause or exacerbate bipolar disorder.


Are you seeking Social Security Disability benefits for your Bipolar condition? Contact Nolan & Shafer PLC today at (231) 403-0040 or contact us online to learn about your options!


Is There a Social Security Listing for Bipolar Disorder?

Yes. The most common way someone can be awarded Social Security Disability benefits for bipolar disorder is to show that they meet the “listing” for bipolar depression. A Social Security Listing is a specific set of medically documented findings, symptoms, and objective evidence. If someone has the medical evidence to prove that they meet the listing, it will not be necessary to prove anything else. That is, they will not need to prove that they cannot do their “past relevant work” or that they cannot do any other work in the regional or national economy, as is the case with most other claims.

The Social Security Listing for bipolar disorder can be found at 12.04. This listing requires that the person applying for disability have medically documented evidence of at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Pressured speech
  • Flight of ideas
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Distractibility
  • Involvement in activities that have a high probability of painful consequences that are not recognized
  • Increase and goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation

If these symptoms can be medically documented, you will then need to show that you have an “extreme limitation of one, or “market limitation” of two of the following areas of mental functioning:

  • Understand, remember, or apply information
  • Interact with others
  • Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace
  • Adapter manage oneself

All of the terms above are highly technical. The bottom line is that you have a low likelihood of proving your case without getting specific statements tailored to the language in the Social Security Listing. As such, you must work with medical providers and attorneys familiar with the Social Security rules.

Although winning your disability case for bipolar disorder will likely be very difficult, if you have severe symptoms and your treating doctors are supportive, the right lawyer can help you make an effective claim for your situation.

Residual Functional Capacity for Bipolar Disorder

You may still qualify for benefits if you cannot show that you meet the Listing for bipolar disorder. To do so, the Administrative Law Judge must find that your “residual functional capacity” prevents you from working. To determine your residual functional capacity, the Administrative Law Judge will look at all your mental and physical impairments and determine what sort of work you can do given these conditions.

People suffering from bipolar disorder often experience physical problems, such as chronic pain or other chronic illnesses (such as heart disease or diabetes) that make it difficult to complete physical work. Like depression, bipolar disorder can impact a person’s ability to concentrate and stay on task during the workday. Additionally, people who have bipolar disorder are likely to miss work due to a lack of motivation or medical appointments. If the Administrative Law Judge finds that you’re going to be having unexcused absences or be off task while at work due to mental illness, you could also be found disabled for these reasons.

Your chances of being approved for Social Security Disability benefits for bipolar disorder increase when you have a team of treating providers who are supportive and willing to write specific statements on your behalf to back your disability claim. A supportive family physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist is essential for these claims.

The following are some of the clinics in West Michigan that we typically find to be most helpful in supporting Social Security Disability claims for mental illness:

Holland Hospital Behavioral Health Services
854 Washington, #330
Holland, MI 49423
(616) 355-3926

Start & Associates
320 Columbus Avenue
Grand Haven, MI 49417
(616) 607-4476

Psychology Associates of Grand Rapids PC
100 Parchment Drive SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546
(616) 957-9112

Don't Give Up if You Have Been Denied Benefits for Bipolar Disorder

Unfortunately, far too many people with bipolar disorder are disabled because they are at first denied disability by the Social Security Administration. The reality is that most disability claims have to be brought before an Administrative Law Judge at a hearing. Having an experienced legal team to fight for you can help tremendously.

Furthermore, when someone alleges primarily psychiatric illness as a basis for disability benefits, winning is even more challenging. This is mainly because it is more difficult to measure or test for purely psychological problems. Whereas when someone has a broken leg, it is easy to identify and confirm the case, it is significantly more challenging to know when someone has a legitimate mental illness like bipolar disorder. This is why it is critical to work with credible medical providers to support your claim.

Testifying before an Administrative Law Judge is nerve-racking, but Nolan & Shafer, PLC will ensure you are fully prepared to do so confidently. In addition to preparing the medical evidence in your case, we will meet with you several times before the hearing to adequately prepare you for the questions the judge will ask.


Contact Nolan & Shafer PLC today to see if you qualify for social security benefits for your bipolar disorder!


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