General Question

loser's avatar

Is being Bipolar considered a disability?

Asked by loser (14987points) March 18th, 2010 from iPhone

I searched but I couldn’t find anything on this.

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19 Answers

thriftymaid's avatar

Yes, it can be. Depends on if it limits a normal life activity. I know two people who suffer from Bipolar Disorder who are on SSD. If you feel you should qualify stay in treatment and talk to an attorney who does Social Security work.

YoH's avatar

I researched a disability question similar to yours at the local library. They have a huge SS volume of SS disabilities. It answered many questions whether a specific disorder was included. I think all libraries carry this volume, and I don’t think it can be found online.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Yes. Bipolar is cause by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which is physical, which then makes it a physical disability, and thus something you cannot be discriminated against. With SSD, disability isn’t a black-and-white issue, you have to be disabled ‘this much’, as it were.
Check out Fitts v. Fannie Mae for more info, it’s the ruling that made bipolar a disability.

Buttonstc's avatar

One of my closest and dearest friends from college onward was medically retired on disability from the Navy after only having served a few short years after graduation from Annapolis.

He also had a strong family history with his father and two other siblings similarly affected.

This was back in the days when it was still called “Manic- Depressive” and before the effectiveness of Lithium was recognized. I personally think that’s more accurately descriptive and don’t know what prompted the name change, but that’s a side tangent.

This was due to a severe episode which he suffered resulting in his hospitalization.

So, the armed forces consider it a disability obviously. But I’m inclined to think that a disability judgement is made on a case by case basis.

But it is definitely a medical disability regardless of whether a particular company or organization will acknowledge it as such.

Perhaps due to the effectiveness of newer medications, it is not necessarily as totally disabling
as it used to be. But even with all of the additional advances in medications, it sure isn’t a walk in the park as that delicate balance can get thrown out of whack with something as simple as a cold.

anartist's avatar

If you are hospitalized and helped by nurses/therapists at the hospital to get into a government program to assist the disabled prepare for employment or to collect SSI. I wouldn’t advise going there if I didn’t have to. And I certainly wouldn’t advise just writing it down on a job application and hoping for disability preference.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Buttonstc It was a move to de-stigmatize the disorder by rebranding it. Also, what constituted ‘manic-depressive’ 50 years ago is not the same as it is today, with many of typical ‘manic-depressive’ qualities being much closer to what we now call borderline personality disorder (the 1960’s version of that is much different than it is now). So the rebranding was, at least a little bit, not just a political move.

anartist's avatar

Don’t forget that if one decides to press for a declaration of disability and SSI payments, there are strict limitations on what one can earn if one is able to work. And finding work under these conditions may prove more difficult. The earned income restrictions are so severe that unless there was family money, one would live a life of poverty and remain trapped in a sort of mentally ill underclass that would take great effort to extricate oneself from.

Buttonstc's avatar


This is honestly the first time I have ever heard of bipolar being associated even tangentially with borderline personality disorder.

I am under the impression that borderline is a pervasive psychosis more closely associated with schizophrenia but minus the auditory hallucinations or paranoia.

Bipolar is usually far more episodic in nature rather than pervasive.

Bipolar certainly does not usually have the continuous disordered thinking pattern as schizophrenia.

Many bipolars are extremely and totally logical ( to a fault, many times).

But, I’m not a medical professional, so….....

anartist's avatar

I didn’t think personality disorders were even heard of in the 50s and 60s. They seemed to become quite trendy, quite the “in” diagnosis in the 70s and 80s.

Buttonstc's avatar


I think the fact that it contains the word personality makes it confusing.

The word borderline is the key here as it’s indicative of the same degree of pathology as schizophrenia but in a less well defined form.

In other words, it is a pervasive psychosis but not nailed down as much as paranoid schizophrenic. So it’s not as benign as the simple phrase personality disorder might indicate.

I’m probably not explaining this too well, but my understanding is that there are certain aspects of psychosis such as overall affect and pervasive disordered thinking which are not present in other things like neuroses or even bipolar or phobias.

Borderline personality disorder is a serious major mental illness.

Response moderated
MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Buttonstc Um, what? BPD is not related to schizophrenia. BPD is a personality disorder, an extreme version of every person’s human flaws, characterized by instability. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder. Bipolar is a mood disorder. I wasn’t trying to say that they were the same thing, but that as our understanding of psychology has evolved, so have our definitions, so that if one were to look back on someone who, during the 60’s, was diagnosed as bipolar, you might now find that the current definition of borderline personality disorder fits that person much more than the current definition of bipolar.

Quick question: Are you, perhaps, taking some beginners psychology courses at the moment?

loser's avatar

Thanks for your answers. I had a meltdown at work and I was thinking that if they try to fire me, I might be able to save my job this way. Just grabbing at straws. I don’t even know if it would help. I’m not sure anything can at this point.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@loser You probably can’t use your bipolar to save your job. You have to prove that they fired you BECAUSE of your bipolar, which is generally hard to do. Also, the cost of a legal battle is usually so expensive that it’s not worth it.

anartist's avatar

@Buttonstc Personality disorders come in a variety of flavors, don’t they? It’s a whole array: borderline personality, narcissistic personality, histrionic personality, dependent personality, obsessive,avoidant, paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal etc etc. And they affect people to varying degrees. And sometimes they are simply exaggerations of “normal” personality traits. But they are difficult to treat because they are so ingrained.

anartist's avatar

@loser maybe a talk with those at work not about what might be wrong with you but about your strengths and your desire to put this incident behind you with attempts to improve handling of stress or whatever caused it would be helpful. You have gotten along ok at work most of the time, yes?

iquanyin's avatar

just a note on it’s new name: “bi-polar” means “two-poled,” that is, swinging between the two poles of mania and depression. so it’s actually as descriptive as manic-depression, it just hasn’t had time yet to acquire the stigma that prompted the name change.

it’s pretty much the same as it was before, but it’s also true that there are shared factors among the different labels. basically, it’s all human traits taken to an extreme with some chemical imbalances. also, bipolar can become so severe that it closely resembles schizophrenia (hallucinations, delusions), but it’s usually more espisodic. schizophrenia itself isn’t a cut-and-dried thing. there are, for example, “positive” symptoms (hallucinations, etc) and “negative” (flat affect, lack of concentration, etc). it’s not unheard of for doctors to disagree on just what someone has when they’re having psychotic phenomena (diagnosis is an art, not a science, because there’s a subjective element).

also, spot on to the person who said instability is a key trait of borderline. yep, instability in the sense of “emotional lability” meaning, basically, really really really emotional people. the extreme emotionality leads to very unstable relationships, a chaotic job life, and so on. but they’re not psychotic (ie, not hallucinating, they live in the “same reality” as others, just in a more extreme way).

good place to mention this: over the last decade, the idea of borderline as untreatable is changing.

downtide's avatar

@loser Bipolar doesn’t have to be a disability, if it’s properly managed. The most important thing is to work with your doctors & therapists to establish a management routine to keep your mood stabilised.

iquanyin's avatar

no magic bullet exists. brain chemistry is an infant science. some find their balance, some never do, and that’s with and without formal treatment. it’s worth finding out, certainly, if something can help you. but there are no guarantees.

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