Exhaustion and Bipolar Disorder
February 26, 2014 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I am currently going through a period of extreme exhaustion but with little depression. I am bipolar, and I want to know if this is most likely a part of being bipolar, or something unrelated.

It is very hard to get up in the morning, and sleep feels realllly good and comforting. I have this feeling where I feel I could stay in bed all day. I wanted to know if what I am experiencing can be attributed to bipolar disorder, because this problem creeps up every now and then. Just extremes of feelings and stuff. Any advice would be welcome and appreciated.
posted by Thanquol180 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, as you said, "this problem creeps up every now and then" so it could be related to the bipolar or it could be something completely unrelated, like your thyroid or something else. Do you have a healthcare practitioner you can consult?
posted by DarlingBri at 9:23 AM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, I have two loved ones with bipolar disorder, and their periods of exhaustion tend to correlate with the depression. They don't seem to have too much exhaustion-without-depression unless they're on the other end, so manic that they haven't slept in days.

That said, one of them also has a thyroid disorder, and that knocks him right on his ass with exhaustion.

Which is to say, there's no way to say. You probably need to talk to your psychiatrist and your regular doctor, get some labwork done, and go from there.
posted by Stacey at 9:34 AM on February 26, 2014

I'm not sure where you are, but don't discount Seasonal Affective Disorder. If I didn't have a kid and pet and plants, I'd hibernate all winter.

Also, I agree that having labwork done is worthwhile. Usually one has to ask to be tested for Vitamin D (silly, since so many folks are deficient), but also check into whether B12 and/or magnesium levels are up to par (again, you have to ask--even insist--because this is not on a regular panel).

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are worth knowing (and supplementing accordingly) regardless of how up or down you feel. You might be amazed at how these things impact sleep.

Now the bad news: it's just true that sometimes the best thing to do is the hardest thing to do. Fight that urge to take a nap by taking even a 5-or-10 minute walk. Is it snowing? OK! Even better! It's a PITA to get bundled up, but time it--it's likely to take less time than you'd otherwise spend tossing and turning.

Loads of sympathy. Like I said, I'd sleep all winter if I could, but since I can't these are the things that truly do help... and if they mean I'm totally exhausted by nighttime, great--maybe I'll get better, deeper sleep then. I hope you do too.
posted by whoiam at 10:01 AM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have bipolar disorder (type 2) and my psychiatrist has hammered home the strong connection between it and sleep patterns--in fact, one of the signs that diagnosticians use to differentiate someone who is suffering from depression vs. someone who is in a depression phase of bipolar disorder is sleep--typically people suffering from depression have trouble sleeping, whereas depression phases in bipolar typically involve sleeping more than usual/too much.

Anecdotally, I've been going through a depression swing lately, and the first thing that made me notice it was my inability to get out of bed, and my desire to stay in it all day--like you I actually do get up, which is thanks to the meds--but I am staying extra vigilant to make sure it doesn't creep any further into danger territory.

I would definitely let your therapist/psychiatrist know about this, as it is a common sign, in my understanding, of depression kicking in. Your psychiatrist can also run lab work to rule out any other medical reasons for the exhaustion.
posted by syrenka at 10:05 AM on February 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

What meds are you on? Lots of meds used for bipolar are highly sedating.

If you can run this by your psychiatrist, that would be helpful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:06 AM on February 26, 2014

You may already know this but you can be depressed without feeling sad, and yes, fatigue could be a big part. But your medication could also be a part. Might want to discuss this with your doc.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:11 PM on February 26, 2014

Bipolar disorder tends to manifest depression in atypical fashion (BPII here). For instance, typical major depression might show as sleeplessness, weight loss, and sadness, but bipolar depression could certainly look like excessive sleep, fatigue, weight gain, etc. Especially if it's recurrent or cyclical, it could totally be related to the bipolar disorder.

That being said, IANAD, and there could be a whole host of other things at play there - medication issues, seasonal issues, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, who knows what. It's an excellent thing to discuss with your psychiatrist.

Aside from the obvious "talk to your psychiatrist" advice, I would second whoiam's suggestion to watch your sleep hygiene. Even if you feel like a slug, if you can physically get out of bed at a decent hour of the morning, no exceptions, even weekends, and hopefully also get exposure to BRIGHT light and fresh air soon after getting up, that can help. And no naps, ever. Basically, look into sleep hygiene and assess what you need to do differently about your sleep/wake habits and sleeping environment, because in my experience, sleep problems are always the first step in a long slide, and good sleep is just SO critical to managing the disorder.

And if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, have hope! Winter has to end soon, right?
posted by bowtiesarecool at 1:13 PM on February 26, 2014

ok, yeah. it was depression, thought it did not feel like it at first. I am gonna try my best to get out of bed and possibly exercise. Thank you all for your advice and encouragement!
posted by Thanquol180 at 4:41 PM on February 26, 2014

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