Is Bipolar a Disability? Eligibility Requirements for SSDI Benefits

Bipolar disorder is a disability in the eyes of the Social Security Administration if you meet certain thresholds.
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Written by Lee Huffman
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The Social Security Administration may consider bipolar disorder a disability if someone has medical documentation of the condition, limited ability to perform certain tasks and proof of ongoing treatment. People with disabilities may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance and work accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 1 in 5 people experience a mental health condition in their lifetime

National Institute of Mental Health. Mental Illness. Accessed Oct 18, 2023.
. Bipolar disorder commonly runs in families, with 80% to 90% of patients having a relative with bipolar disorder or depression. Bipolar disorder can have three different diagnoses: bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder.

Work accommodations for bipolar

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations for eligible employees with disabilities. Accommodations can vary by job and employee needs, but a few examples of workplace accommodations include

U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy. Accommodations for Employees with Mental Health Conditions. Accessed Oct 18, 2023.

  • Telecommuting or hybrid office policies.

  • Flexible hours and scheduling.

  • Sick leave to accommodate mental health.

  • Scheduling breaks as needed.

  • Reducing or removing distractions.

  • Private offices or space enclosures.

  • Tape recorders for recording meetings and training sessions.

  • Additional assistance and/or time for learning new tasks and duties.

  • Flexible and supporting supervision style.

SSDI benefits for bipolar

The average Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payment was $1,486.89 per month in September 2023

. Disability benefits may be taxable.

The size of the benefit you'll receive is based on, among other things, your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security. This calculation takes into account how much you earned each year and how long you worked.

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What types of bipolar qualify for disability?

The Social Security Administration may consider bipolar disorder a disability if you meet conditions 1 and 2 or 1 and 3 from the list below


  1. Medical documentation of bipolar disorder with three or more of these conditions: pressured speech, flight of ideas, inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, distractibility, involvement in activities likely to have painful consequences, or increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation.

  2. Extreme limitation of one or marked limitation of two of these things: ability to understand, remember, or apply information; ability to interact with others; ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace; or ability to adapt or manage oneself.

  3. Your condition is "serious and persistent," with at least two documented years of treatment and minimal ability to adapt to changes in environment or activities in daily life.

How likely is it that the SSA will approve my SSDI application?

Only about 38% of all disability applicants are initially approved for SSDI benefits. However, you can appeal the decision. You have 60 days to appeal a denial in writing.

There are four levels of appeals available if you want to continue pursuing your application:

  • Reconsideration.

  • Hearing by an administrative law judge.

  • Review by the Appeals Council.

  • Federal court review.

Approximately half of those who appeal to an administrative law judge were approved


When can I start receiving disability benefits?

Typically, disability applicants in general have to wait five months from the onset of a disability to receive benefits. Benefits are usually tied to the date of the onset of the disability rather than the date of the application, which means you might receive “back pay” after the Social Security Administration approves your application.

For example, if your disability began June 20 and you applied July 1, your first benefit would be paid for December. December is the sixth full month of disability. However, Social Security pays benefits in the month following when they are due. So you wouldn’t actually receive your first payment until January When Your Benefits Start. Accessed Oct 18, 2023.

However, SSDI applicants wait an average of over seven months before receiving an approval decision.

Read more about whether these conditions may qualify for disability benefits.

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