Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)

Bipolar Disorder (also known as Bipolar Disaffective Disorder and Manic-Depression) is a medical disability recognized by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) and also the greater medical community. Bipolar disorder comes in varying types; Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and cyclothymia based on the severity and type of mood swings and episodes that the person with Bipolar experiences. Bipolar disorder actually encompasses some who experience many manic or depressive episodes in their lifetime and some who may only experience one full manic episode ever. To be considered Bipolar, one must have had at least one manic episode (although hypomania is also considered). Bipolar depression is also very different from unipolar depression, though the symptoms can often be confused.

Some of the more common symptoms of bipolar depression are sadness, guilt, anxiety, sleep and appetite disturbances, fatigue, loss of interest in hobbies or other usually enjoyed activities, problems concentration, social anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Sometimes bipolar depression can even manifest psychotic episodes or features of delusion. Symptoms of mania depend very much on the person, sometimes it can be an elevated and grandiose period sometimes it can be extreme irritability and abnormal and risk-taking activities. Either way judgment is severely impaired during a manic episode and sufferers may take substance abuse, sexual risks, and money spending binges where they normally would not. While euphoria is often experienced, prolonged manic episodes can lead to suicidal ideation and psychosis.

Treatment for Bipolar and bipolar symptoms usually includes medications such as a mood-stabilizer, an anti-psychotic and other medication based on the individual. Therapy is also needed to regulate and contain rapid cycling. This can make working on a consistent basis a struggle for those suffering from Bipolar.

According to the NIMH, Bipolar affects over 5.7 million American adults, with most being diagnosed in their mid-20s. Many sufferers are in the working world when symptoms emerge suddenly, and this can create problems at work.

Bipolar disorders effect concentration, sleep patterns, mood stability, and even consistency in showing up or your ability to function at work on a daily basis. Federal and State Laws protect you from being discriminated against in your workplace due to your Bipolar disorder. Additionally, you must be given the opportunity to negotiate reasonable accommodations for your Bipolar disability.

Bipolar in the Workplace: Ways That You Might Need Accommodations

You may need to negotiate with your employer to allow you to:

  • Attend therapy sessions or doctor's appointments
  • Accommodate your missing work (though not to an unreasonable degree) to assist with adjustment to new medications and side-effects
  • Change your schedule to accommodate for sleep disorders
  • Have additional time to complete complex tasks during a time where your bipolar creates confusion or difficulty in concentration

Also, you have the right to be free of harassment and derogatory comments about your disability.

Bipolar Disorder is Protected as a Medical Disability Under the Law

Federal and State Law protect disabilities in the workplace. In order to qualify for disability discrimination, an employee must be regarded as disabled, be disabled, and be able to have a record or proof of the disability. It is then the employee's burden to show:

  • How the disability limits your work or work environment
  • That he or she is still able to perform the necessary functions of the job description, given reasonable accommodations that do not place an undue burden on the employer
  • And that the employer discriminated against the individual either by not allowing a reasonable request for accommodation, harassment, or other form of discrimination in the workplace based on the medical disability.

An employer has a duty under the Americans with Disabilities act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to allow reasonable accommodations in the workplace to allow you to do your job consistently even with your disability. It is illegal for an employer to take adverse action against you due to your mental disability, such as Bipolar Disorder. Adverse action includes any discriminatory hiring, firing, or lack of reasonable accommodation during your employment. If you feel that you have been discriminated against based on your Bipolar Disorder, you should call an experienced medical disability attorney for further information on your rights under California and Federal Law.

Further Information