September 15, 2005

Disclosing Bipolar Disorder to an Employer

Determining whether to disclose your bipolar disorder to an employer can be a difficult decision to make. As Dr.Miklowitz states, those with bipolar disorder usually pick one of four options:

"-Tell everyone about the condition, including the boss and co-workers.

-Tell one or more trusted co-workers who don't hold positions of authority.

-Don't tell anyone, but admit to having a bipolar disorder on any work-sponsored health insurance claims, opening the possibility that the employer may find out.

-Don't tell anyone at work, and don't use your employer-provided health insurance to cover treatment costs."

Of course, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, one with a disability does not have to make it known unless they want a certain accomodation at work. The best thing about disclosure is that it means you can ask for those accomodations you might require and actually attain them. Maybe you need a well lit area to work in or a place that does not have as much noise and distraction. Your employer will be more understanding if you need these things and he/she knows that you have bipolar disorder rather than if he/she is unaware.

On the negative side, it is possible that you might be passed up for promotion because your boss does not believe that you could handle it. Actions you make could sometimes be seen as a result of your illness rather than just something "normal." Having bipolar disorder does not mean that you can't have a successful career. "A survey conducted by the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University found that 73% of 500 professionals previously diagnosed with a psychiatric illness were able to maintain full-time employment in their chosen fields, including nurses, executives, lawyers, professors and newspaper reporters" (Forbes.com).

You can always discuss the idea with your therapist to see his or her take on it. Make sure to "feel out" how your boss feels about mental conditions and how sensitive they are to them. It is oftentimes fairly obvious how sensitive they would be, although sometimes its difficult to tell. Ultimately, whether you decide to disclose your condition to an employer is your decision alone and comes with several potential advantages and disadvantages, just as everything does.

Original Source: Disclosing Bipolar Disorder. Forbes.com. September 15, 2005. By Scott Reeves.

The original article has seven tips for discussing bipolar disorder with an employer. You can check them out by clicking on the link in the original article.

You can access a great booklet on how to retain a job when you are dealing with a psychiatric disability by clicking here (pdf format). It goes over all of the basics for disclosure as well.

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