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What is bipolar disorder?

Many New Yorkers are not aware that in addition to serious illnesses and injuries, the Social Security Administration also includes mental disorders as qualifying conditions for Social Security Disability Benefits. The qualifying conditions include, but are not limited to, panic attacks, schizophrenia, mental retardation and bipolar disorders. But, what is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is a brain related disorder that commonly includes unusual, often drastic, shifts in one's activity level, energy and mood. Often, the swings are serious enough to affect a person's ability to maintain relationships or even keep a job.

Since there are ties to bipolar disorder and genetics, through the Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database, research is being conducted to analyze genes to help best determine how the disorder is caused and how to best combat the illness. By looking at identical twins with the same genes, where only one twin has bipolar, it has been determined that environmental factors may also play a role in the development of the disorder.

Bipolar disorder is often discovered in victims who experience significant swings in mood, often called "mood episodes." These may range from excessively joyful behavior, usually referred to as a manic episode, to extreme sadness, called a depressive episode. In addition to mood swings, victims also experience significant changes in behavior, sleep, activity and energy levels.

For victims of a qualifying mental condition that prevents them from keeping gainful employment that is expected to last at least a year, Social Security has programs that may help. This monetary help can cover costs, such as medical expenses and lost wages due to the disorder.

Source: NIH.gov, "Bipolar Disorder," accessed on March 22, 2016

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