Is Bipolar a Disability? How to Qualify for Benefits

Medically reviewed by Melissa Bronstein, LICSW

Bipolar disorder is a disability according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Someone living with bipolar disorder who can no longer work due to their symptoms may be eligible to receive government assistance, such as Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits may provide monthly income assistance and insurance coverage.

This article will explore these options, including individual eligibility requirements and application steps.

<p>Olga Rolenko / Getty Images</p>

Olga Rolenko / Getty Images

Bipolar Disability Rights Under Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law established in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The ADA gives equal opportunity rights to persons living with disabilities. The ADA does not provide a list of eligible conditions that qualify as disabilities. Rather, the ADA provides a broad definition of what it means to be a person with a disability.

Defining "Disability"

An employer will determine if a person has a disability based on the following criteria:

  1. They have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities,"

  2. There is a record of such an impairment

  3. The person is regarded as having such an impairment

Bipolar disorder is disability that is protected under the ADA. This means it’s unlawful for any employer to discriminate against hiring someone with bipolar disorder, terminate someone for having bipolar disorder, or not adequately accommodate someone living with bipolar disorder. 

People with bipolar disorder may need accommodations in the workplace, including the following:

  • Alternative work spaces or flexible working conditions

  • Support person or support animal

  • Job coaching

  • Training modifications

Related: Mood Disorders

Bipolar Disorder and Working

Symptoms of bipolar disorder vary in frequency, duration, and severity. This means no two people experience bipolar disorder in the exact same way. Nevertheless, living with bipolar disorder symptoms can make it more challenging to maintain employment. This can help explain why around 30% to 60% of people with bipolar disorder never return to full-time employment after their symptoms start.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder that impact work ability include:

Related: Mood-Congruent and Incongruent Features of Bipolar Disorder

I Have Bipolar, But Am I Eligible for Disability Benefits?

Even with a bipolar disorder diagnosis, you may or may not be eligible based on financial and medical requirements.

Disability benefits are broken into two categories: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for people with disabilities in their working years who have been paying Social Security taxes or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for children and older adults with disabilities.

To qualify for SSI, you don’t need to have a work history, but you cannot have financial assets totaling over $2,000 per person or $3,000 per couple.

About two-thirds of people who apply for disability benefits are denied at first. The most common nonmedical reason for denying a claim is excess income.

Basic eligibility requirements are:

  • A formal diagnosis

  • A diagnosed condition that will last longer than 12 months

How to Apply for Social Security Benefits

You can apply for Social Security benefits in person or by phone during a meeting with a representative from SSA or by filling out the forms online. After submitting your application, the SSA will conduct its evaluation to make a decision.

Applying for Social Security

The application process requires you to:

  • Gather medical records and supporting evidence from healthcare providers.

  • Submit the application.

  • Wait for the evaluation decision.

  • Appeal the decision, if denied.

Here is the SSA’s website to start your application online or call 800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment.

This review process includes confirming your total working years and any current work activities. Evaluation could take one month or longer. If approved, you can expect to wait five months until the benefits start arriving.

Social Security benefits are federal government benefits. This means you're entitled to these benefits no matter where you live in the United States, although different states or regions have slightly different monthly payouts based on cost of living.

How Much Money Can You Expect for Bipolar Disability?

As of 2023, the average monthly benefit for disability insurance was $1,352.

Tips for Applying and Qualifying

You can prepare for applying and qualifying by ensuring you have all the necessary medical records available as evidence of your claim.

Adult Disability Checklist

The SSA recommends printing and reviewing the Adult Disability Checklist to help prepare your application for approval.

Medical information and helpful documents to attain in advance and submit with your application include:

  • Official diagnosis by a medical professional

  • Records of hospitalization

  • Records of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and other treatments including prescriptions

  • If possible, statements or letters from medical and mental health professionals to support your disability claim

Related: Best Long-Term Disability Insurance Companies

Next Steps If You Don’t Qualify

Many people with disabilities don’t qualify the first time they apply for assistance. If this happens, know that you have 60 days to submit an appeal to the decision. While this is a frustrating and time-consuming process, it is often the route to which people end up receiving disability benefits.

Finding Work With Bipolar Disorder

Finding work with bipolar disorder is possible. During your search, you may want to consider seeking working opportunities that support your recovery. Examples include:

  • Working environment: Will it help you thrive or be detrimental to your mental health?

  • Schedule: Part-time hours and flexible scheduling are considered good options for people with bipolar disorder.

  • Creative outlet: Many people with bipolar thrive in creative settings. You can look for work that includes creativity or that supports a creative lifestyle.

  • Coworkers: Aim to find working environments with coworkers that have values and lifestyles that support recovery.

Related: What Are the Differences Between Bipolar 1 and 2?

Insurance Coverage for Bipolar Disorder

Under the ADA, every insurance provider is obligated to provide coverage for services related to mental health conditions like bipolar disorder. If you don’t have private insurance through an employer or family member, know that both Medicare and Medicaid offer some coverage for mental health services and prescription medications.

Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for anyone over 65 years of age. Medicaid is both a federal and state program available for persons with limited resources and income. If you receive SSI, you are eligible for Medicaid.

Benefits Offered

Benefits offered will depend upon the exact insurance coverage. Both Medicare and Medicaid offer some coverage for the following:

Related: How to Get Free or Low-Cost Health Insurance


Bipolar disorder can be a disabling mental health condition. Not everyone will be eligible for disability benefits, though. Applying and qualifying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or other government assistance requires a record of diagnosis and meeting additional eligibility requirements. Finding work with bipolar disorder is still possible.

The American Disabilities Act protects against discrimination and ensures employers must provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities such as bipolar disorder. If you apply for disability benefits but are denied, you can appeal the decision. SSDI benefits could help supplement the cost of living with bipolar disorder.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.