The Americans with Disabilities Act always considers bipolar disorder a disability. However, the Social Security Administration sometimes does not.

Bipolar disorder can cause significant shifts in mood, making work difficult. However, differences in its classification can prevent some people with bipolar disorder from accessing disability benefits.

This article is about bipolar disorder and disability. After explaining how different organizations classify the condition, it discusses the protections and benefits these organizations can provide. The article also explores the realities of working with bipolar disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes significant psychological changes. In particular, people with bipolar disorder experience shifts in energy, mood, and activity levels.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can make it difficult for people to work. For example, those with the condition may experience intense depressive episodes, which can cause sleep and concentration problems. These episodes can also make everyday activities seem challenging.

Despite these facts, different organizations have their own definitions of disability. This means different organizations might disagree over particular cases of bipolar disorder. For instance, certain organizations might consider somebody’s bipolar disorder a disability, while others might not.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) classifies bipolar disorder as a disability. The ADA defines a disability as any mental or physical impairment that significantly affects a person’s functioning in a major area of life. Bipolar disorder can cause such disruptions.

However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) only classifies some cases of bipolar disorder as disabilities, as the organization uses a different definition of disability than the ADA’s.

The SSA considers a person to have a disability only if they earn no more than a certain amount of money per month. Additionally, their impairment must also severely limit basic work-related activities for at least 12 months.

According to the SSA, to count as having a disability, a person must also meet either of the following criteria:

  • The individual has an impairment that, according to the SSA’s list, is severe enough to prevent any form of work.
  • Their impairment prevents them from working in their previous job and in any other suitable jobs defined by the SSA.

Bipolar disorder makes the SSA’s list of severe conditions. Despite this, given the organization’s definition of disability, the SSA only considers certain people with bipolar disorder as having a disability.

In the eyes of the ADA, any person with bipolar disorder qualifies as having a disability. Therefore, they are eligible for the legal protections that the ADA guarantees.

However, qualifying as having a disability is more complicated with the SSA.

Unlike the ADA, the SSA can provide financial assistance through disability benefits. In 2020, the SSA only awarded disability benefits to 27.9% of applicants.

Different organizations have different ways of helping people with bipolar disorder if they qualify as having a disability.


The ADA provides legal protections for all people with disabilities. These legal protections extend to those with mental health conditions. They include protections against discrimination at work, such as the following measures:

  • Employers cannot decline to hire a qualified person on the grounds of having a past or present disability.
  • Employers cannot demote a qualified person or refuse them training on the same grounds.
  • Employers must aim to accommodate a person’s disability unless this would be unduly difficult.
  • Employers cannot demand information about a person’s past or present disability status.

A person can explore more information about legal protections on the ADA’s website.


The SSA provides two main types of benefits for people with disabilities: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

According to the SSA, SSDI entitles a person to a maximum of four credits per year. These credits can vary in amount. However, the SSA notes a person entitled to SSDI benefits receives an average of roughly $1,710 per month as of November 2023.

As the SSA also explains, SSI entitles a person to monthly credits, and each credit cannot exceed $943.

The SSA notes that the application process is the same for SSDI and SSI.

A person can apply by phone, online, or in person. In every case, the person must provide information about their disability and any recent employment. SSA officials then decide whether the individual may receive disability benefits.


The SSA asks for information about several criteria, including:

  • a person’s examinations and treatments, including the names and contact details of the doctors or clinics involved
  • a person’s medical tests, including who recommended the tests
  • a person’s medications, including who prescribed them and why
  • the date when bipolar disorder began impairing the person’s work
  • the kinds of work the person did before bipolar disorder made work impossible

Some of this information helps the SSA determine whether the individual meets its definition of having a disability. However, to qualify for SSDI or SSI, a person must also meet certain financial requirements.

Financial requirements

When it comes to SSI, the SSA explains that these vary from state to state.

As for SSDI in 2024, the SSA explains that a person must have earned no more than $1,550 per month if not blind or no more than $2,590 per month if blind.

The individual may then receive one SSDI credit per $1,730 they have earned, with a maximum of four credits per year.

There is no medically approved list of jobs for people with bipolar disorder.

According to a 2020 review, people with the condition may be more likely to have creative personality traits. For this reason, a creative job may be particularly attractive to some individuals with bipolar disorder. However, scientists have yet to confirm this idea.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition. Therefore, the most suitable jobs for people with bipolar disorder will put less strain on their mental health.

For instance, highly stressful jobs may be inappropriate for individuals who have the condition. Additionally, research suggests stress can worsen bipolar disorder.

Below are some commonly asked questions about bipolar disorder and disability.

Is it hard to get disability for bipolar?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) can provide financial assistance to people with bipolar disorder in the form of disability benefits.

However, qualifying as having a disability with the SSA is complicated. Applicants must meet certain criteria.

In 2020, the SSA only awarded disability benefits to 27.9% of applicants.

How serious is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health condition. Symptoms can range from being manageable to severe enough to require hospitalization.

It can be an important factor in suicide, job loss, ability to function, and family discord.

Can bipolar 1 turn into schizophrenia?

Bipolar I disorder and schizophrenia are distinct mental health conditions.

While bipolar I disorder cannot develop into schizophrenia, it’s possible to experience symptoms of both. Schizoaffective disorder is an example of this.

Can bipolar people work?

Yes, it is possible for a person with bipolar disorder to work. For some people, symptoms can make it challenging.

According to a 2022 study, the average person with bipolar disorder is unable to work for around 65.5 days per year. A 2020 paper suggests between 30% and 60% of people who develop bipolar disorder cannot fully regain their capacity for work.

However, although bipolar disorder can present a serious obstacle to employment, it does not always make working impossible.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition. Several organizations classify it as a disability and offer support on that basis.

However, these organizations have different definitions of disability, so they cannot help everyone with bipolar disorder.

A person can reach out to a doctor for tailored advice and support.