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Why Am I So Tired? My Experience With Bipolar and Fatigue

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Here's my experience with bipolar and fatigue.

Here's my experience with bipolar and fatigue.

I'm Tired, Now What?

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? I am honestly unable to count how many times I have been asked that question as I live a life in addiction recovery. I actually have a dual diagnosis of bipolar II mood disorder and addiction disorder.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with depression, and I was given a pill to take every day called Paxil. The general practitioner didn't suggest that I speak with a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or anyone else—but simply kept refilling the prescription. My doctor told me the depression would pass, and I should "just keep putting one foot in front of the other."

Well, two addiction treatment centers later, I now have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I was first diagnosed by a psychiatrist at the addiction treatment center, and an outside psychiatrist confirmed it after I had been in recovery for a year. Bipolar was definitely not the answer I was looking for.

Whereas the diagnosis of depression has become more socially acceptable in recent years, the diagnosis of bipolar isn't quite there yet—and I am not certain it will ever be. In general, awareness of bipolar hasn't been raised in our society's consciousness as much as depression has. As a result, not many people understand bipolar disorder.

Breaking Down Bipolar

According to WebMD, bipolar disorder is a "manic depressive illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking and behavior."

The primary four types of bipolar depressive illness are:

  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Cyclothymic disorder (also referred to as cyclothymia)
  • Other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorder

People with bipolar disorder may also exhibit psychosis, addiction disorder, anxiety, or ADHD. These diagnoses are often linked to people previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder because of the hyperactivity displayed in their behaviors.

My Diagnoses

In 2000, I was diagnosed with depression. In 2005, I was also diagnosed with an addiction disorder during my 28-day stint at the Hazelden / Betty Ford Treatment Center in Center City, Minnesota. I remained sober for one year but then started drinking again, essentially abandoning all of my work in treatment.

In 2011, my diagnosis of depression was changed to a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder due to formal and informal evaluations at my second addiction treatment center (La Hacienda in Hunt, Texas). I received treatment for my bipolar disorder while I was in treatment, and that treatment continued afterward with my psychiatrist at home. After a year in addiction recovery, my psychiatrist did another bipolar evaluation, and I continued to meet the criteria for this disorder.

While I continue to be treated for bipolar II disorder, an anxiety and ADHD disorder have been added under the umbrella of my diagnosis.

So what about bipolar and fatigue?

So what about bipolar and fatigue?

Bipolar and Fatigue

During depressive and low mood swings, a person with bipolar disorder may exhibit excessive fatigue. This fatigue can be described as an extreme lack of energy and a want to rest or sleep. In these low and depressive mood swings, a person usually loses the desire to do pleasurable activities and other activities required in their daily life, such as work productivity. Fatigue is one of the most noticeable and heart-wrenching signs of a bipolar illness a person can show. At these times, the person usually withdraws from family and friends.

Some of the best ways to battle fatigue are:

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  • Eliminate daytime naps
  • Set a sleep schedule
  • Stay hydrated
  • Limit caffeine use to less than 200mg
  • Begin an exercise routine
  • Get outside and enjoy the sunshine
  • Take vitamin B12 (consult your doctor first)
  • Meet with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist
  • Prioritize daily tasks
  • Set minimal non-functional hours

Reaching Out for Help

You are in luck finding resources to help you manage your bipolar disorder or help someone else manage theirs. It is crucial to be open and talk about it, especially with loved ones or close friends. Generally speaking, I do not recommend bringing it up to a coworker unless perhaps they raise the subject with you.

If you have tried some of the above recommendations and your energy level or engagement in social situations is not improving, it may be time to reach out for help.

Here are some other resources for you:

Note: If you have insurance, pull up the website from your carrier. Look for psychologists or psychiatrists who are covered by your insurance in your area.

Please Share Your Experience

Please share your thoughts on bipolar and fatigue by answering one or more of the questions below. You can share your experiences in the comments section below.

  1. Do you notice a correlation between bipolar disorder and daily fatigue?
  2. Is fatigue (e.g., tiredness, lack of motivation, withdrawal from social situations, insomnia) a problem in your life or the life of someone you know?
  3. What other symptoms do you experience in your day-to-day life that is related to either your bipolar disorder or a bipolar disorder of a friend/family member?
  4. What specific ways do you manage your fatigue, or how do you help someone else manage their fatigue?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


DeShawn on October 05, 2017:

I also have mono, for over 3 years my levels for Epstein Barr Virus still elevated that causes fatigue/tiredness too. My moods tho, when they change, they arte drastic, one minute or more of depression then straight up to euphoric feeling, laughing to straight back down to depression or as I see it, if on manic high/happy I can go straight ACROSS to anger. I've been only been diagnosed with bipolar, not 1 or 2 but am asking Dr soon, major depressive disorder, anxiety & will be discussing mixed episodes w/Dr as well. Its pathetic & unreal how quick my moods swing. I love my days I get when I'm in the "middle", calm, relaxed, content, perfect. Not as often as I should or like

Mark Choat (author) from Cedar Park, TX on December 03, 2016:

MsDora, Thank you so much for your comment, and words of encouragement. I have been writing for a long time as a way to help myself, and help others at the same time. My journey is ongoing, and I hope my words will help many others along their journey.

Thanks again for your comment, and have a marvelous day!


Try to stay positive on your journey. I was at the same point in my life when I was an active alcoholic, and I know some of what you are feeling. Have you tried Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)? I know this has helped me through some rough times, and it may help you. I hope you find the energy and joy in your life, because you are a meaningful person, as I can tell by your comment. Please take care of yourself, and I hope you find more energy / passion in life.

Maha on December 01, 2016:

I am always tired and sleepy .don't enjoy anything in life. I use medication but they are just helping me to reduce suicidal thoughts but does not make me active or intrested in life.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 30, 2016:

I had a bipolar boss, but I never noticed her fatigue (if she ever was). You are on a very effective self-help journey here. By studying your situation and writing about it, you help others with information, and you help yourself with awareness. Stay positive.

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