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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

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Bipolar Disorder and Your Job

A bipolar disorder diagnosis can have a big effect on your job and career. In a survey of people with depression and bipolar disorder conducted by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 88% said their condition affected their ability to work.

But don't be alarmed. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder doesn't necessarily mean that you can't keep your job. Plenty of people with bipolar disorder work and live normal lives.

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Understanding Bipolar Disorder -- Treatment

Bipolar disorder is treated with three main classes of medication: mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and, while their safety and effectiveness for the condition are sometimes controversial, antidepressants. Typically, treatment entails a combination of at least one mood-stabilizing drug and/or atypical antipsychotic, plus psychotherapy. The most widely used drugs for the treatment of bipolar disorder include lithium carbonate and valproic acid (also known as Depakote). Lithium carbonate can...

Read the Understanding Bipolar Disorder -- Treatment article > >

Should I Tell my Boss About my Bipolar Disorder?

You don't have to talk to your boss or coworkers about your bipolar disorder. Your health is your business. But if your condition has been affecting your performance at work, being open may be a good idea. Your boss and coworkers may have noticed the changes in your behavior. If you explain what's going on, they may be more sympathetic and helpful than you expect.

Making Changes in Your Job

Some people with bipolar disorder find their current job just isn't a good fit. Maybe it's too stressful or the schedule is too inflexible. Maybe it doesn't let them get enough sleep, or involves shift work that could worsen their condition. If you think your job is hurting your health, it's time to make some changes. Here are some things to consider:

  • Decide what you really need from your job. Do you need to reduce your responsibilities? Do you need extra breaks during the day to reduce stress? Would you rather work independently or in a group? Do you need to work shorter hours or take time off? Or do you need a different job altogether?
  • Make decisions carefully. People with bipolar disorder are prone to acting impulsively. Think through the effects of quitting your job -- both for yourself and possibly for your family. Talk over your feelings with your family, therapist, or health care provider.
  • Look into financial assistance. If you do need to take time off because of your bipolar disorder, see if your employer has disability insurance, or look into Social Security Disability Insurance, which will provide some income while you recover. You can also look into the Family and Medical Leave Act. Ask your doctor or therapist for advice.
  • Go slowly. Returning to work after you've taken time off can be stressful. Think about starting in a part-time position, at least until you're confident that your bipolar disorder has stabilized. Some people find that volunteer work is a good way to get back into the swing of things.

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