Bipolar Disorder and Life Insurance


You can get life insurance and even if you have bipolar disorder, but like any other major risk factor, bipolar disorder comes with special limitations.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder occurs when a person has mood swings that alternate between depression, moments of extreme happiness, and feelings of irritability and anger.

According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder can be evidenced by a combination of behaviors, including:

  • Easily distracted
  • Little need for sleep
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor temper control
  • Reckless behavior and lack of self control such as drinking, drug use, sex with many partners, spending sprees
  • Very elevated, expansive or irritable mood, such as racing thoughts, talking a lot, false beliefs about self or abilities
  • Very involved in activities
  • Daily low mood or sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Eating problems such as loss of appetite and weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble getting to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Pulling away from friends or activities that were once enjoyed

The condition affects nearly 6,000,000 people in the US, and often begins before the patient turns 25. The condition can be controlled, but the level of compliance with therapy can be complicated due to the nature of the disorder itself.

How life insurance companies view bipolar disorder

One of the challenges that makes bipolar disorder complicated for life insurance companies is the prospect of patient suicide. The disorder is also associated with anti-social behaviors, including job loss, divorce, poor performance in school, and violent or abusive behavior.

Because of these complications, insurance companies will generally wait at least six months before approving someone with bipolar disorder once a diagnosis is made. The person has to undergo a period of therapy, that will include a combination of counseling and medications. The passage of time is required to determine if those therapies are effective in controlling the disorder.

Insurance companies will also be interested in determining the necessity of hospitalization, as well as the person’s ability to function normally in society.

An insurance complication that is almost unique to bipolar disorder

An obstacle that insurance companies can run into in attempting to underwrite applicants who have bipolar disorder is the patient confidentiality requirement from psychiatrists and psychologists. Because of the sensitive nature of this condition, healthcare professionals will often refuse to provide information about the patient.

There is of course good reason for this, even apart from industry ethics and protocols. First, patients and their families often insist on confidentiality since revealing the disorder often has social implications. Second, on a practical level, the existence of bipolar disorder could make it difficult for a patient to obtain employment.

Insurance companies have to work around this in order to make an informed decision about a life insurance application. In order to get the required information, you’ll have to sign release forms that will allow the healthcare practitioners to provide the information to the insurance company. If the information is not forthcoming, the insurance company will have little choice but to decline the application. In the case of bipolar disorder, applicant cooperation is an absolute must.

Managing the disorder

What’s most important about bipolar disorder when it comes to applying for life insurance is that you are properly managing the disorder. A life insurance company will not only consider the severity of the disorder, but how well it’s been controlled.

Since treatment is generally the result of a combination of counseling therapy and medication, the insurance company will want a track record on the outcome of these efforts.

It will help your case if you can provide additional information that will indicate that you have achieved stability in your life since the diagnosis. This will include stable employment, a good credit history, a stable family environment, and even documented social engagement.

Other risk factors

Like all other high risk health factors, life insurance companies are always concerned with the presence of additional risk factors. In the case of bipolar disorder, drug and/or alcohol abuse is fairly common. If any of these behaviors accompany the disorder, the insurance company may conclude that the condition is not being managed by the patient, and that he or she will represent too high a risk to justify approval.

Finding the Right Life Insurance Agent is 51% of the Battle

An often underestimated strategy in obtaining any kind of high risk type life insurance, like bipolar disorder, is getting the right life insurance agent. An experienced life insurance agent will know what companies have the most favorable view of bipolar disorder, and are not only more likely to grant approval of your application, but also to do so at a more affordable rate.

If you do suffer from bipolar disorder, and you need life insurance, start the process by first finding the right agent. The whole process will go better for you if you do.