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Bipolar Disorder

Accommodation and Compliance: Bipolar Disorder

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About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder marked by periods of elevated mood (mania), and prolonged periods of sadness and hopelessness (depression). These shifts in mood are severe as compared to the average person. Signs and symptoms of mania include distinct periods of:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative than usual
  • Distractibility
  • Increase in goal-directed activity
  • Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (spending sprees, sexual indiscretions, other risky behaviors)

Signs and symptoms of depression include distinct periods of:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism for most of the day
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in more, or all, activities
  • Significant weight loss
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Loss of appetite and weight or weight gain
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideation

Bipolar Disorder and the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA does not contain a definitive list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA defines a person with a disability as someone who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more "major life activities," (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Accommodating Employees with Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with bipolar disorder will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What limitations is the employee experiencing?
  2. How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
  3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
  4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
  5. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
  6. Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?

Accommodation Ideas:

Situations and Solutions:

The following situations and solutions are real-life examples of accommodations that were made by JAN customers. Because accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis, these examples may not be effective for every workplace but give you an idea about the types of accommodations that are possible.

Events Regarding Bipolar Disorder

Other Information Regarding Bipolar Disorder


American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Families for Depression Awareness
International Bipolar Foundation
Job Accommodation Network
Mayo Clinic
Mental Health America
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Institute of Mental Health
Office of Disability Employment Policy
Remedy's Health Communites
Suicide Prevention Resources
Tourette Syndrome "Plus"
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
World Health Organization