Working Too Hard with Bipolar Disorder Leads to Pain

May 19, 2017 Natasha Tracy

Working too hard with bipolar leads to physical pain. People don't associate this with a "mood" disorder but pain is due to bipolar when you overwork.When I work too hard, I find myself in too much pain thanks to bipolar disorder. I push through when I should stop, and work and work only to find myself waking up one day so sick I can barely move. Work is kind of the bane of my existence. Necessary for existence? Yes. Pleasant? Not in the least. This is eminently clear to me right now as I woke up in extreme pain thanks to bipolar and working too hard.

What Is Working Too Hard with Bipolar Disorder?

What I think people don’t realize is that “working too hard” with bipolar disorder is not the same thing as “working too hard” when you don’t have bipolar disorder. A normal, neuro-typical person might find “working too hard” to mean working 10-hour days for weeks at a time. That definitely is “too hard.”

But for a person with bipolar disorder “working too hard” might just mean working at all for seven days in a row. It might mean working full eight-hour days instead of half days, four days in a row. It might simply be pushing through the desire to nap or for alone time because friends are visiting. Because the concept of “working” when you have a chronic illness is different than when you’re normal. With bipolar disorder, every little thing – even things you might like – constitutes “work.”

For me, “working too hard” is usually a combination of personal and professional responsibilities. I may not dislike any of it, but it all takes so much effort that it is categorized as “work,” regardless.

What Happens When You Work Too Hard with Bipolar Disorder?

And when I work too hard the bipolar disorder reminds me with bucketfuls of pain. I woke up today barely able to move with every muscle in agony. I wanted to cry because everything hurt so much. I am not exaggerating. Everything hurt. I even had a sore throat. I would say my eyelashes hurt, but, yeah, that would be hyperbole.

I realize this isn’t a mood thing so people wouldn’t associate it with a “mood” disorder, but, trust me, it’s part of my bipolar, for sure.

And this is an instant-on situation. Yesterday I managed to eke through the day (and the tough ones before it) and today I am paying for it, dearly.

Avoid the Pain – Don’t Work Too Hard with Bipolar Disorder

And it’s on days like these when I chastise myself for not remembering the obvious: I am not like other people. I need more breaks. I need more rest. I need to do less.

This is something I have – and many others have – trouble accepting. After all, everyone around me can spend days “doing things” and not get woefully ill afterward, so why can’t I?

Bipolar disorder, that’s why.

My advice today is: don’t be like me. Don’t forget. Don’t compare yourself to the “normals.” They can do things you can’t. It’s unfair but true. Learn your bipolar limitations and dance within them. You’ll be happier for it, in less pain because of it and be much less sick. Because remember, when you’re as sick as I am today, you blow a day into nothingness anyway. All that work beforehand doesn’t get you ahead when the sickness just forces you behind later.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2017, May 19). Working Too Hard with Bipolar Disorder Leads to Pain, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 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.

Traci Self
June, 22 2023 at 10:09 pm

Wow! Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been so tired for so long wondering why, but I’m bi polar have degenerative disc disease have had both hips replaced 2 neck surgeries and work 30 hours a week. I had no idea why! This makes me feel better lol

August, 21 2022 at 9:59 pm

Wow Thank you for writing this. I have been in manual labor my whole life. And when I was younger it was no problem to be 10 foot tall and bullet proof. Staying up and going for 3-4 days no sleep ,no food and I didn’t need drugs, because in my head the party never ended. And then the crash would come and it would only take me a couple of days to get over it. But now I’m pushing 50 still doing manual labor ( but as an independent contractor ) on some days it’s all I can do to show up on time and do the best I can while fighting fatigue, self confidence, trying to be positive, trying to motivate myself and the muscle /joint pain. And if I get off of my sleep pattern I have searing migraines .
I just signed with a large retailer to do closets and demo work. And I’ve been telling my wife I think I’m just going to work 6 hour days because I am now to the point 8 hour days are less productive and the pain just isn’t worth it.
Norms just don’t understand the strength , the will power it takes just to get through some days. And forget about trying to socialize ( I don’t know about anyone else) that takes more energy then lifting 200 lbs. This is why I keep a very small circle that consists of just my wife , my sons, my brother and mom. Even then I keep my wife closer then anyone else. She understands that for me to socialize it takes a lot out of me.
Thank you I feel better knowing that other people with this disorder is going through the same things I am. I wished we no one had to go through these things.
When some one who finds out or figures out I have Bipolar they ask me questions and I end up interrupting their questions with this:
“ I live and dwell between Heaven and Hell and I feel the affects of both”. I figure to myself let them seat on that for awhile and let ‘em figure it out.

September, 24 2017 at 1:00 am

Oh my gosh! Thanks for this article! I had ever read anywhere that pain was associated with Bipolar Disorder. Man! Can I relate to this article! Thank you so much. I thought I was getting old too early, somehow everything seemed to be too much for me.
Fortunately my husband is very understanding. Phew! We have two kids and its not easy being a good parent when you can't leave bed because you're just so ridiculously tired.

September, 16 2017 at 7:27 am

I dont think your pain is from bipolar. I think you may have fibromylagia or something similair.Ive not seen pain listed as a bipola symptom in any of the books ive read.I have bipolar, and i have pain, but its from my carpal tunnel.

June, 28 2017 at 9:52 am

Natasha, I've poured over all your articles. Thank you for these. I have a young adult son (26) who exhibits all the symptoms of bipolar. I know I am not a doctor. When my husband and I gently approached him about looking into it, he was very hurt. Now he's angry. I wish he could get inside my mind and understand my intention and motivation is only love. More importantly, I wish I could get inside his mind. Reading your articles are the closest thing I can to do to accomplish this. He's still angry about his ADHD dx from almost 20 years ago. I could go on and on. I don't have to be right, but if he's so certain that we're wrong, why is he so angry? Why not just go and be reassured of his negative dx? I know the answer, I think. I think he's afraid. Could he deny indefinitely? Were we overstepping our boundaries? He's always had an uncanny ability to blame me for everything. Any insights from you would be appreciated.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
June, 28 2017 at 1:40 pm

Hi Kathy,
It's very hard to help someone who doesn't want to see his or her own mental illness -- but this is common.
I'm not sure if you've found my blog and book yet, but you may wish to read these two posts (not assocaited with HealthyPlace):
My book is also here:…
You may wish to read it and encourage him to read it, too.
Also, there is a book called "You Need Help" (I'm not affiliated with it.) and it's about trying to get someone in to get help. You can find it here:…
One more that I'm also not affiliated with deals with denial:…
I hope something there helps.
- Natasha Tracy

June, 28 2017 at 9:38 am

Thank you

June, 7 2017 at 8:08 am

I was a bipolar depressive. I am cured now. I have not had any incident of either mania or depression. Of course i have to take my medication. Am i just lucky?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
June, 7 2017 at 12:56 pm

Hi Pixie,
On medication, some people are very fortunate and experience complete remission. It's great if you're one of them :)
- Natasha Tracy

May, 29 2017 at 5:08 pm

This is very enlightening for those of us who didn't understand bipolar..thanks for sharing

May, 22 2017 at 3:15 pm

It sounds like you have acquired something like fibromyalgia as well. That's exactly what happens to me and that is my diagnosis.

Tom Berkas
May, 22 2017 at 10:42 am

"Learn your bipolar limitations and dance within them." WOW! And thanks!

Somethin's Gotta Give
May, 20 2017 at 12:29 pm

I sooooooo identify with this picture!!! This is totally me at work
Recently once of our other offices have closed adding to my workload. I've also had to take on extra work because they have let all our term/part time employees go as well. On top of that management has told us they will NOT be hiring anybody new. In fact they are currently working on a plan to do some more downsizing of our full time indeterminate staff for the 2nd time! It makes me so mad but it's not safe to express it. When I repress it though, that anger gets internalized as depression (heaped on to my already bipolar depression). Vacation time off has been put on hold, stress leave is not an option, it just pisses off my employer and makes me look less competent and I really need to keep this job because I am currently living paycheque to paycheque!!! I really have no other option than to try my very best to tough it out. I am worried and very much afraid. My anxiety causes me to overthink and "what if" every thing. If not reined in I will ruminate myself into a puddle of tears. I honestly don't know what to do. I don't know how much longer I will be able to keep up this pace. As it is right now most of my spare time is spent sleeping. It's not much of a life. My whole life revolves around work at the moment. I try to keep putting one foot in front of the other becausethere really is no other way, always trying to do my very best but I worry that it won't be enough this time and I also worry who (or what) is going to be there this time to catch me if I fall.

Simply Just Living / Suriving Is Hard WORK!!!
May, 20 2017 at 11:18 am

Ever notice how much WORK is a part of people's every day lives...
Self help WORK, WORK books, WORK sheet, WORK force, finding WORK (especially good WORK references), volunteer WORK, paid full time /part time WORK, living on a WORKing man's wages, affording descent WORK clothes, under WORK, graduate WORK, over WORKed, overtime WORK, WORK load, finding WORK able solutions to problems, WORK hours, WORK day, WORK week, just getting up and ready for WORK, getting to WORK (especially through rush hour traffic or around road WORK construction!), field WORK, team WORK, (especially when your WORK affects someone else's WORK load), work FLOW, paper WORK, school WORK, classroom WORK, clock WORK (time management, meeting deadlines), inter WORK (multitasking) home WORK, re WORK (having to redo something because of mistakes or perfectionism), house WORK, yard WORK, garden WORK, foot WORK (walking can become difficult when meds cause massive weight gain), WORK out (exercise is hard WORK!!!), WORK shop, paint WORK, plaster WORK, metal WORK, wood WORK, WORK bench, handi WORK, craft WORK, wool WORK, needle WORK, crewel WORK, patch WORK quilting, bead WORK, art WORK, (anything that requires focused attention and concentration for long periods of time), creative WORK (some meds are believed to kill or dampen creative abilities), WORKing envIronment (WORKing conditions, WORK climate, (what's it like being around other WORKmates / co-WORKers), WORK room (is it quiet or noisy, clean or dirty), WORK space (especially if clutter is a problem), even just simple basic self care that most healthy people take for granted can be supremely hard WORK for someone in the throws depression.
Bipolar beats you down making it harder and harder to get back up again over time. It's ongoing presence is like a threating black cloud always hanging over head with the potential of either pouring down manic, elated tears of joy or sad, miserable tears of depression. Even when it's not currently raining the anxiety of knowing that it will again someday soon is unsettling.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Gail Wright
June, 6 2017 at 10:28 pm

Wow that was amazing, manic? I was just diagnosed. I'm almost 60 haven't "worked" in 2 years. I'm bleeding money.
I had a very rough depression episode that lasted over some year. As I am finally coming out of the depress, wham anxiety to the max.
Well I suppose when I had a breakdown a over a year ago if finally went for treatment and therapy. My 1st doc. wouldn't change me meds. I suppose because I was suicidal at our 1st visit. She didn't diagnose bipolar, I had been taking I drug since mid 40'Septemberassumed I had a mild depression.
Moved back to where I lived for 20 years. Was vet successful in a upper middle area.
Now I done have my safety net and I was divorced 5 years ago. So I have all kinds of triggers. I sold homes that I wouldn't be able to touch financally.
Won't get into everything but I never ever ever thought I had my past unroll my new Doc. give me her assessment. Yep I didn't know what it really entails.......still trying to understand how this came about. Did I have for decades and just went about my life without a clue.
When I had my break a few years ago I believed it was because of an ex narcissist. perhaps it triggered it.
So now where so I go from here? I'm doing all the studying I can online. Slept 2 hours last night......yes this must be my high. Well may hit high sucks. For be its anxiety 24/7 and silk don't feel I can hold down a job. Having I hip rwplacement surgery at the end of the month.
My sister said why didn't you have the surgery when befote you moved? I guess I should of gotten of my behind while I couldn't even go out the front door.
So, I have to try and adapt to my situation.
My sister said she would come out front MN to help me. So I'm sure she will let mean stabs leak from her mouth.
Anyways any input to helip me really understand my future.

May, 20 2017 at 9:10 am

Love, love love this article!!! How very true.

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