The decision is very real for many individuals with bipolar disorder: Do they inform their supervisors at work about it?
It really shouldn’t be any more of a decision to tell a supervisor you have bipolar disorder than to tell him you have diabetes or heart disease. But still in the twenty first century, bipolar disorder carries a stigma.
Legally speaking, no individual suffering with bipolar disorder is required to disclose this fact to their employer. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides this protection. If you choose to you could be faced with the consequence of not being offered that promotion you feel you’re entitled to.
While the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person with disability, there is a caveat. The act notes the employee must be able to perform all the essential functions of the position to which he’s being promoted. And that is sometimes open to interpretation, especially when you suffer from a health problem lie bipolar disorder, which still carries a stigma.
“The stigma is real.” That’s the opinion of David J. Miklowitz. Not only is he a professor of psychology at the University Colorado-Boulder, he’s also the author of The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know. The stigma against bipolar disorder can manifest itself in any number of ways, he said. “It can be as subtle as fellow workers attributing justifiable reaction to situations to your illness [bipolar disorder], or as blatant as not getting a job or a promotion.”
Dr. Miklowitz explains that those with bipolar disorder usually use one of these four approaches to revealing they have bipolar disorder. They may tell everyone at work about their bipolar disorder, including their immediate supervisor and all of their co-workers. Another strategy, the doctor says, is that they only reveal their bipolar disorder to those co-workers with whom they place the greatest trust and who do not hold any positions of authorities.
The third method of revealing their bipolar disorder is to not tell anyone at work, but declare the condition on work-sponsored health insurance claims. This alternative risks that certain individuals within the workplace will eventually discover their bipolar disorder. The benefit is that the health insurance covers as much of the cost for bipolar disorder as possible.
The fourth alternative approach to disclosure of bipolar disorder is simply that the individuals don’t. They don’t reveal their bipolar disorder to anyone at work – not a supervisor or any co-workers. Additionally, they don’t declare the condition on their health-insurance forms as well. They simply seek covered for the costs elsewhere or cover the bipolar disorder related costs themselves.