Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes dramatic shifts in mood. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the disorder affects around 2.8% of Americans 18 years and older. On average, bipolar disorder manifests itself at around age 25, although it can start in early childhood.

Social Security Disability Insurance covers mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder. To qualify for benefits, an individual must work a specified number of years and pay Social Security taxes. In addition, a person must have a disability that the Social Security Administration considers long-term.

Bipolar disorder categories

Bipolar disorder is a category of mental illness that includes three different conditions. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes these conditions as:

  • Bipolar I: Bipolar I is a manic-depressive disorder that can occur with and without psychotic episodes. Manic episodes must last at least seven days and become severe enough for immediate hospital care.
  • Bipolar II: This type of condition has both depressive and hypomanic episodes that alternate and do not usually lead to hospitalization. Hypomania is similar to mania, but less severe.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: This is a cyclic disorder that causes only brief periods of mania and depression.

Social Security requirements

Social Security Disability Insurance covers all three bipolar disorder conditions. To qualify for disability, Social Security requires medical documentation from an acceptable medical source to show there is a mental disorder. Medical documentation includes:

  • Medical, psychiatric and psychological history
  • Psychological testing
  • Types of medications, along with their dosage and effects
  • Clinical treatment

Medical documentation must show three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Speaking fast
  • Sounding jittery or anxious
  • Exaggerated self-esteem
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Easily distracted
  • Involvement in activities with a high possibility of pain
  • Increase in goal-directed activity or psychomotor agitation, such as pacing

Other requirements may include nonmedical sources. These sources include information from the individual applying for disability benefits, people who know this person and evidence from school or work.