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Bipolar Disorder and Children

Bipolar disorder is present when a child experiences extreme variations in their mood which alternates between extreme levels of depression and elation. The episodes can be recurring and almost always require therapy and intervention with medication.

Can my child get Supplemental Security Income for Bipolar Disorder?

The Social Security Administration may consider a child under the age of 18 disabled if they have a medical or mental impairment or a combination of conditions, which results in severe functional limitations that are expected to result in death, or that are expected to be continuous for at least twelve months.

To prove your child is disabled you will need to provide medical evidence that they are unable to do activities that are appropriate for a child who is the same age and they are severely limited in their ability to function.

Many claimants are denied Supplemental Security Income benefits even though they have been diagnosed with a severe mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. How can this happen? The Social Security Administration has a listing of all the impairments they consider automatically disabling, but even if your child has a severe condition that meets a listing on the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments (also known as the Blue Book), if your family makes too much money or has excessive resources, the child will be denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

Meeting a Listing in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book for Bipolar Disorder

The Social Security Administration’s Blue Book is divided into a children’s listing and adult listings. The listing for bipolar disorder is found under listing 112.00 Mental Disorders, section 112.04 Affective Mood Disorders (Children).

To meet the listing the Social Security Administration would expect that your child is currently under the care of a mental health doctor, and they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder which involves a full or partial manic or depressive syndrome.

Symptoms which your child should exhibit for bipolar disorder include the following:

Major depression characterized by five of the following (including either a diminished interest in pleasure or a depressed or irritable mood). The list is provided by the Social Security Administration:

a. Depressed or irritable mood; or
b. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities; or
c. Appetite or weight increase or decrease, or failure to make expected weight gains; or
d. Sleep disturbance; or
e. Psychomotor agitation or retardation; or
f. Fatigue or loss of energy; or
g. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt; or
h. Difficulty thinking or concentrating; or
i. Suicidal thoughts or acts; or
j. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking;


2. Manic syndrome, characterized by elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, and at least three of the following:

a. Increased activity or psychomotor agitation; or
b. Increased talkativeness or pressure of speech; orc. Flight of ideas or subjectively experienced racing thoughts; or
d. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity; or
e. Decreased need for sleep; or
f. Easy distractibility; or
g. Involvement in activities that have a high potential of painful consequences which are not recognized; or
h. Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoid thinking;


3. Bipolar or cyclothymic syndrome with a history of episodic periods manifested by the full symptomatic picture of both manic and depressive syndromes (and currently or most recently characterized by the full or partial symptomatic picture of either or both syndromes);


B. For older infants and toddlers (age 1 to attainment of age 3), resulting in at least one of the appropriate age-group criteria in paragraph B1 of 112.02; or, for children (age 3 to attainment of age 18), resulting in at least two of the appropriate age-group criteria in paragraph B2 of 112.02.

Hiring a Disability Lawyer

For parents with children struggling with bipolar disorder the symptoms may be familiar. If you have consistently taken your child to the mental health specialist and they are following their prescribed treatment plan but they continue to exhibit the symptoms listed, you probably have a good case (assuming your family meets the income and resource requirements).

Parents who have not sought the proper treatment for their child will have a more difficult time winning benefits and should talk to a disability lawyer about what information should be given to the Social Security Administration to prove their child is disabled.
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