The Disability Challenge: The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I can use your help, here. A friend of mine emailed me an eye-opening CNS story which reports that, according to the Social Security Administration, 8,575,544 workers collected federal disability benefits at the end of 2011, including 1,304,85 (15 percent, one in six) with mood disorders.


    On reflection, the numbers are hardly surprising. According to the World Health Organization, depression is on track to be the world’s second-most disabling disease by 2020 (after heart disease) while bipolar is number six. But the raw numbers hardly tell the full story. Heart disease and most other illnesses tend to afflict an older population. Mood disorders, by contrast, typically strike the young, while in their working prime. 

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    It gets more complicated still, as today’s work environment poses challenges not commonly faced back in a less sophisticated age. Just showing up doesn’t cut it. We need to be mentally on our game, and the margin of forgiveness is very slim. Just ask any teacher or surgeon or technician or manager or someone dealing with people all day. 


    Add to that the fact that we are living in a very stressful world, dealing with an illness that involves overreacing to stressful situations.


    The other complication is that mood disorders don’t just go away. Technically, bipolar is episodic, but with relapse a virtual inevitability it is more accurate to regard the illness as chronic. If you’re contending with bipolar in your twenties, you are likely to be dealing with it in your forties and fifties, as well. Hopefully, you will be handling it better by then, but for many people it only seems to get worse. By this stage, a good many of us are ready to give up.


    So, here we are, struck down in our prime, where even having a 95 percent operational brain may not cut the mustard with our bosses. It only goes downhill from there. No wonder so many of us are on disability. As I said at the beginning, I need your help: Question:


    Are any of you aware of any one with a mood disorder who has actually voluntarily gone off disability?


    We desperately need to have this discussion. Comments below ...   

Published On: September 29, 2012