Bipolar Disorder and Decreasing Functionality

April 29, 2016 Natasha Tracy

People with bipolar disorder can experience decreasing functionality over time. How do you deal with decreasing functionality in bipolar disorder? Read this.

Over time, bipolar disorder can cause a decrease in functionality when it is being particularly nasty. Day-to-day activities like showering, cooking, going to work or even socializing can seem impossible (Why Don't We Want to Shower When We're Sick). They can seem like climbing up an infinitely tall staircase. In my case, I’ve been trying to write an article that requires a bit of research for three days and I just can’t. I can’t function well enough to do it. I’ve watched as my functionality has decreased over the week thanks to bipolar disorder and it just sucks.

Decreased Functionality as Illustrated by 'The Spoon Theory'

As you familiar with The Spoon Theory? If not, I recommend giving it a read, it speaks to the reality of living with a chronic illness like bipolar disorder.

Basically, The Spoon Theory explains how we have a set amount of energy at the beginning of the day (represented by the number of spoons we have) and everything we do spends a little bit of that energy (uses up a spoon) depleting our supply. We have to choose, carefully, what we do because if we spend energy on one thing, we won’t have it to spend on something else. And, typically, we just don’t have enough spoons to get everything done that we want – everything done that someone else could do. Non-chronically ill people just have more spoons than we do.

Decreasing Functionality Over the Week

Well, in addition to the number of spoons per day we have, I would suggest that we have weekly spoons to spend as well. So if I overspend my spoons on Monday and Tuesday, I won’t have enough spoons to work Thursday and Friday. It like going into overdraft on your bank account – the bill comes due eventually.

And if you look at my last week, I worked really hard last Saturday and Sunday and so I saw a decrease in functionality throughout the rest of the week thanks to bipolar disorder. I should have rested more on the weekend and then my workweek would have gone better.

Even “High-Functioning” Bipolars Can See Decreasing Functionality

People with bipolar disorder can experience decreasing functionality over time. How do you deal with decreasing functionality in bipolar disorder? Read this.I’m what some people would consider to be a “high-functioning” person with bipolar disorder. In other words, I take care of myself, pay my mortgage and live independently. Well, as much as that is true, my functionality is not even throughout that week, or even the day. Some days my functioning is better than others and, often, it’s this decrease in functioning over time that really gets me because, all of a sudden, I find myself unable to do anything. And tomorrow won’t be any better because I have no weekly spoons left. It’s going to take days of resting for me to create more weekly spoons, and I know it.

Depending on who you are, this decrease in functionality thanks to bipolar might happen over the course of a month, week or day (Bipolar and Energy Levels: Fluctuations in During the Day). You “over-function” at some point and then pay for that by “under-functioning” in the future. It’s a high price to pay and one that can drastically affect your life.

What to Do about Decreases in Functionality Because of Bipolar

I’d love to tell you that there’s some magic solution that would prevent decreasing functionality in bipolar disorder. The only thing I need to do is to stop self-sabotaging my week and rest more earlier on. That, and not plan anything major for my Fridays. Luckily, this works with my workload but I also ensure that things like deadlines aren’t on Friday either, helping me chill out most of that day.

Regardless as to a magic answer, being aware of these “weekly spoons” and their effect on your functionality is crucial. It’s this self-awareness that can help us mindfully decide where we spend our energy and our functionality. It’s unfair that bipolar limits functionality in some of us so drastically, but it does. And recognizing that, and working with it and instead of ignoring it, is what will keep us functional when we really need it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2016, April 29). Bipolar Disorder and Decreasing Functionality, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 25 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

June, 24 2016 at 2:41 am

I didnt know what he name was nor if it existed and never saw a psych doctor and always thought I was a lazy bum that couldnt handle many thinks but I struggles and struggle to make it to the top as an executive with a national company and then one day after having a car accident my world fell apart. I fell off the cliff never to return. That was twenty years ago. Pure hell.

Polar Patricia
May, 11 2016 at 6:21 pm

Natasha, thank you so much for posting this. When I come home from work I really can't do anything. I don't do anything all day Saturday except a couple loads of laundry. I do a little more on Sunday's. I've gotten worse through the years. There are things I'd love to do such as attend a Monday night bipolar support group, go folk dancing on Wednesday nights, go hiking Saturday mornings. I used to be able to do that. I hate that I have almost no life except work.
I didn't realize this was due to my bipolar 2. I can't afford not to work - my job pays fairly well but it's often 50+ hours per wk. I've been looking for another job for a long time. Sorry to moan and groan - I'm lucky to have a job a home medications etc. I'm just so glad not to be alone in this. Thanks so much for all you do Natasha.

Sean O' Leary
May, 10 2016 at 11:59 am

Hi 47..diagnosed with bi-polar at 30..managed very well for last 15 years, medicated and other skills. Avoid alcohol but miss a social drink with friends soo much. Great to read your blog as vocalises my thoughts on having a finite ball of energy from which work and schedule during week drains causing me to feel that I am missing/compromising the social aspects of life. Is this medication related or a part of the illness. What can I do..? regards..Sean ( Ireland )

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