The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that helps people with disabilities get equal rights at work. Bipolar disorder is considered a disability under the ADA, just like blindness or multiple sclerosis.

You may also qualify for Social Security benefits if you can’t work. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has two programs that provide a monthly income and health insurance to people who can’t work because of a disability:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): This is for people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This is for people with a limited income.

Read on to learn how the ADA and Social Security might benefit you.

To get protection under the ADA, you have to prove that a disability like bipolar disorder severely limits your ability to work. The ADA covers companies with 15 or more employees.

Getting Social Security benefits can be trickier. You need to have a disability and be a part of a low-income household or have worked for a certain number of years.

Not everyone with bipolar disorder qualifies. About two-thirds of applications for disability benefits are denied at first.

To get Social Security benefits, the SSA will ask you to show that:

  • you’ve lived with bipolar disorder for at least 1 year
  • your condition is severe enough to prevent you from doing your job or any other job
  • your disability will last for more than 1 year

To qualify for SSDI, you need to have worked at a job where you paid Social Security taxes for a certain number of years.

The older you are, the more years you need to have worked. A 42-year-old must have worked for 5 years, while a 30-year-old only needs 2 years of work.

To qualify for SSI, you need to earn less than a certain amount of money. That amount varies by state. You also can’t have more than $2,000 in assets ($3,000 if you’re married).

The ADA prevents people who are disabled from being discriminated against at work. Your company can’t cancel a job offer or fire you because you have bipolar disorder.

You must be able to do the basic tasks your job requires, but you can ask for accommodations. Accommodations are changes to your schedule or responsibilities that make your job easier to do.

Examples of accommodations for people with bipolar disorder are:

  • a flexible schedule
  • extra breaks during the day
  • a desk organizer or planner
  • noise-canceling headphones
  • job coaching
  • a support animal

Under the ADA, you also have a right to privacy. You don’t have to tell your employer that you have bipolar disorder unless you want to share that information.

You can get Social Security disability benefits if your bipolar disorder is severe enough to prevent you from working or if it limits your ability to do your job.

Whether you can work depends on how severe your bipolar disorder is and how much your symptoms affect your daily life.

Symptoms like mood changes, irritability, and trouble concentrating can make it harder to do many jobs.

In general, people with bipolar disorder have a harder time working than those who don’t. Between 30% and 60% never go back to work full-time after their symptoms start.

It may be harder for you to work if you have:

  • severe bipolar disorder
  • frequent episodes of mania, depression, or both
  • constant low-level depression
  • psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions

You’ll have an easier time keeping a job if you find one that you love and you have good support.

The ideal job for bipolar disorder is one that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

In general, the best jobs for people with bipolar disorder:

  • are part-time and have a flexible schedule
  • offer a lot of support
  • have a quiet, calm environment
  • provide an outlet to be creative

A vocational counselor can help you find a job that fits you. Having bipolar disorder may qualify you for free vocational rehabilitation services.

Both the ADA and SSA consider bipolar disorder a disability. That qualifies you to get extra protection and benefits under the law.

To start the process, talk with your doctor. You’ll need documents to prove to the government that bipolar disorder affects your ability to work.

To learn more about Social Security Disability benefits, visit SSA website.