This paper explores the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder and the effect of bipolar disorder on work performance. Several articles were explored to define bipolar disorder and the disorder’s impact on work performance, the employer’s response and the vocational rehabilitative field response. Keywords: bipolar disorder, symptoms, work performance, co workers The Impact of Bipolar Disorder on Work Performance.
For people with psychiatric disabilities, symptoms of the disability often fluctuate between periods of remission and reoccurrence, which may interfere with workplace performance and relationships with coworkers (Banks, Charleston, Mank 2001). Because long-term persistent mental illness is sometimes an invisible disability, individuals often choose not to disclose the disability to the employer. Psychiatric disabilities are a leading cause of disability being linked with substantial increased absenteeism from work (Hilton, Sheridan, Cleary, Whiteford 2009).
The absenteeism was defined as working less than the employer expected. Research has noted that there is a need to distinguish between psychiatric disabilities and the related symptoms and the ability to fulfill work responsibilities (Dewa 2007). Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disability in which the symptoms impact work performance, employer/employee relationship, and the vocational rehabilitation field response. Bipolar disorder is a highly complex psychiatric condition that can be characterized by symptoms of depression, hypomania or mania, or indeed, a combination of these mood states in an individual at the same time.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in things such as: mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry-out daily tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job performance, poor school performance, and can lead to things such as suicide. Bipolar disorder is not easy to spot when it starts. When the symptoms ccur they may seem like separate problems, not recognized as parts of a larger problem. When this occurs people suffer for a couple years before they are properly diagnosed and treated for the illness. Bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be managed throughout a person’s life. People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods, which is known as “mood episodes”. An overly joyful and overexcited state is known as a “manic episode”.
An extremely sad or hopeless state is known as a “depressive episode” is described as a lack of energy, a lack of enthusiasm, decreased confidence, decreased productivity, and withdrawal from others (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005). When a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression, this state is known as a “mixed state”. Individuals with bipolar disorder may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode. There are extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior that go along with these changes in mood.
In some cases it is possible for a person with bipolar disorder to experience a long-lasting period of unstable moods rather than discrete episodes of mania or depression. Some of the symptoms are so severe that a person cannot perform correctly on their job. Bipolar disorder may reveal itself in the workplace in a variety of ways. Many individuals report minor physical complaints (e. g. body aches) or irritability may be apparent rather than overt signs of sadness, such as tearfulness or a gloomy demeanor (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005). Irritability may be expressed by angry outburst or overreactions to minor workplace annoyances.
Bipolar employees who have a sense of worthlessness, a depressive symptom, may make unfounded comments about being incapable of doing their jobs or being at fault for setbacks in the workplace. Common depressive symptoms including a lack of interest in usual activities, decreased energy, and poor concentration may cause conscientious workers to neglect or have difficulty completing their usual work-related duties (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005). Bipolar employees who exhibit manic symptoms within the work place may appear to have an excessive eagerness to take on numerous new tasks.
Employees in a manic episode may feel they are capable of any undertaking. Thus, they may pressure superiors to for assignments which they are unqualified, offer advice to coworkers despite little knowledge of the topic area, or take on far too many assignments at one time (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005). During a manic episode, people are usually overly talkative and their speech may be louder and more rapid than usual. They may also experience distractibility that could be noticed in the work place as an inability to focus on a conversation or work-related task.
Racing thoughts, which are characteristic of mania, may be manifested by frequent and sudden changes in topics of conversation, something referred to as flight ideas. A vast amount of individuals impacted by the bipolar disorder are of working age. Thus the disorder can affect the employer in terms of lost of productivity, financial cost, and work place stigma. Employers have reported that individuals with bipolar disorder had significantly more absences. Individuals with Bipolar Disorder missed an average of 18. 9 workdays each year, significantly more than employees without Bipolar disorder, who missed an average of 7. workdays annually. A further breakdown revealed that employees with bipolar disorder were consistently more costly than employees without bipolar disorder across all types of absences, including sick leave, short-term disability, long-term disability, and workers’ compensation. Because of their high rates of absenteeism, on an annual basis, the overall productivity loss was significantly different, with an annual output 20% lower than that of employees without Bipolar Disorder (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005).
Employers also report that the medical cost associated with bipolar disorder can also be higher. A retrospective analyses of claims from single healthcare plans found that the healthcare costs of enrollees with bipolar disorder were higher than for enrollees without bipolar disorder (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005). The healthcare costs of individuals with bipolar disorder were over twice those of individuals without bipolar disorder. Many individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder stated that they had experienced stigma in the workplace.
Their diagnoses had been the catalyst in them being dismissed from positions, denied promotions, demoted, or held back in their career in other ways (Joyce, Hazelton, and McMillan 2007). Bipolar employees feel that their co-workers subject them to forms of ill-treatment, such as allocation of heavier workloads, gossip about them, and generally denigrating them in front of other co-workers, as a misguided attempt to enforce what is appropriate workplace conduct (Joyce, Hazelton, and McMillan 2007). Co-workers will sometimes inflict punishments if their conduct did not achieve role expectations.
The worker diagnosed with bipolar disorder is held and expected to take responsibility for their actions such as upsetting co-workers, even when they are struggling to indentify and understand these actions. Bipolar disorder chronic and the typical age of onset corresponds with the time that many people are completing their education and entering the work place (Michalak, Yatham, Maxwell, Hale, and Lam 2007). Therefore it is a relative importance that the employers are prepared and accepting of bipolar employee’s emotional well-being.
Employers could implement a variety of ways to address the mental health needs of the bipolar employee: awareness, improve healthcare delivery and employer accommodations and programs. Employers can assist with reducing the stigma experienced by bipolar employees by increasing awareness in the workplace. Management can have basic information about the symptoms, course, and treatment of bipolar disorder, so they can work with their vendors to meet the needs of employees with bipolar disorder (Shcott 1999).
Employers can improve healthcare delivery through the provision of worksite and health plan programs with appropriate cost effective treatments for bipolar disorder. Employers can also be actively involved with their healthcare vendors to ensure adequate delivery of services to their employees with bipolar disorder. The establishing the link to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) would beneficial to employees with bipolar disorder. The EAP provides another source of information and support to employees. Also providing reasonable worksite accommodations to employees with bipolar disorders may also result in approved functioning.
As outlined by the ADA, employers in the USA are required to make reasonable accommodations (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005). Reasonable accommodations that may be appropriate for employees with bipolar disorder include flexible scheduling, reducing distractions in the immediate work environment, and structuring large assignments as a series of smaller tasks. Such accommodations help decrease work-related disruption and stress, which are factors that precipitate a mood episode in bipolar disorder (Montejano, Goetzel,Ozminkowski 2005).
Vocational Rehabilitation Professionals (VRPs) are valuable in assisting individuals with bipolar disorder with achieving vocational goals. VRPs can provide knowledge about appropriate employment or vocational training that will promote bipolar clients wellness (Tse 2002). VRPs assist bipolar clients with choosing a job by instilling a sense of hope. VRPs consider a client’s job preference and introduce options. VRPs motivate clients to maintain good self care skills and habits and process with clients on whether they should disclose to employer concerning their psychiatric disability.
VRPs are important because they help individuals with bipolar disorder to address their concerns, remove barriers to employment and support employers in accommodating clients’ needs in workplace (Tse 2002). In conclusion paid employment is a high priority for individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Many of these individuals want to lead productive work lives. In a work environment where employers’ actions increase awareness and promote diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder everyone will benefit.