People with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, experience extremes in mood ranging from severe depression to periods of mania, or feeling “high.” Mental health care providers typically treat the condition with medications and psychotherapy. Many people with bipolar disorder lead productive lives as long as they comply with treatment recommendations, but some people have difficulty managing their symptoms even with treatment. They may find themselves unable to maintain employment and wish to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
Talk with your mental health care provider about how bipolar disorder makes it difficult for you to work. To qualify for Social Security aid, your condition must prevent you from doing any significant work. Your symptoms must also be expected to continue for at least 12 months. Ask your mental health care provider when you might expect to return to work, if ever.
Begin your Social Security application online or visit your local Social Security Administration office to begin your application. Ask for assistance at your local Social Security Administration office if you do not understand some of the questions or need help completing the application. If you have a case manager at a local mental health agency, she can help you with your application.
Tell your mental health care professionals, including doctors and counselors, that you have applied for Social Security benefits. Tell them the Social Security Administration will probably contact them for information. Ask them to complete any forms and provide any requested information as soon as they can so your application can be processed as quickly as possible.
Send any medical records you have in your possession to the Social Security Administration. Your local office can tell you whether you should send the records to that address or somewhere else. The Social Security Administration will request copies of your recent records but may not seek out older records. However, it will consider all records you send. You can request copies of records from previous mental health care providers and past psychiatric hospitalizations and send those to the Social Security Administration yourself to make sure it has all available information about your disability.
Attend an examination with a physician of the Social Security Administration's choice if asked to do so. The administration asks applicants to do this when it feels it needs more information about their conditions. You will not have to pay for the examination. The physician will not work for the Social Security Administration and will give an independent assessment of your condition.