As with other diseases, the severity of Bipolar Disorder varies significantly from person to person. While many with the disorder are capable of maintaining employment, Bipolar Disorder is a terribly debilitating mental illness in many sufferers.
As with any recognized mental illness, Bipolar Disorder meets a specific set of criteria to be considered an illness, Included in these criteria are maladaptive behaviors, personal distress, and behavior/thought patterns markedly different from those of the average person. In more severe cases of the disorder, this results in multiple hospitalizations, involuntary and otherwise, and significant impairment in daily life.
A person with less severe Bipolar Disorder who is medicine compliant and has had one brief hospitalization over the course of their illness would not likely qualify for disability benefits. A person with rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder who is also medicine compliant but has a lengthy history of inpatient hospitalization and erratic behavior in spite of medicine compliance would be a more viable recipient of benefits, and should not be denied those benefits.
Bipolar is not as harmless as the public often makes it out to be. It is an arguably over-diagnosed ailment. It's commonality makes it seem less serious than it actually has the potential to be. It is not uncommon for treatment to be required in a mental institution. Those that cannot afford this treatment are also not covered under most health care programs, so a disability rating would assist with those costs needed for them to receive treatment.
No, people who are diagnosed with bipolar should not be given disability benefits, because people with bipolar can still work. We all have limitations and challenges. We cannot possibly give benefits to everyone who has the slightest thing wrong with them. People with bipolar can learn to manage it and work.
Bipolar disorder can be a nightmare condition to deal with and treat. Workplaces should be cognizant of the disorder and treatment should be available to those who have it, but having such a disorder does not incapacitate one from work and many people afflicted are productive members of society. Recognizing a disease of the body does not equate to presuming that they are disabled from any type of work.
Bipolar people should not be eligible for disability. Bipolar disorder is no fun to have, but, it doesn't preclude a person from having a job. People with bipolar disorder work at every job you can think of. Disability subsidies are for those who would suffer because of some ailment which prevents them from working.