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Monday, March 5, 2012

Bipolar Disorder Physical Symptoms

People with bipolar disorder usually focus on their mental and emotional symptoms.  These can be dreadful for sure.  However, did you know mania and depression can cause physical symptoms to appear?

Similar to other symptoms, physical symptoms will show up according to someone's bipolar state.  Those who are less depressed will show fewer, milder physical symptoms.  And those who are less than manic (hypomania) are less likely to have severe symptoms.

Depression Physical Symptoms

Sleeping.  Change in sleeping patterns and quality is a hallmark symptom of depression.  There can be trouble falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or the opposite, excessive sleep.  I oversleep when depressed.  In a severe depression I sleep over 24 hours at at time sometimes.

Fatigue.  Fatigue and exhaustion are quite often associated with depression.  This happens even when someone gets enough sleep.  There's simply a lack of energy for everyday activities.  Fatigue and depression feed off each other.  People who suffer from fatigue are three times more likely to become depressed and people who are depressed are over four times as likely to develop unexplained fatigue symptoms.

Chest Pain.  Anxiety and depression from bipolar depression can contribute to chest pain.  Also, depression   increases your risk of heart ailments.  So, the pain could point to a heart or lung issue.

Muscle and Joint Pain.  Muscle and joint pain may be from depression.  Also, people living with chronic pain are at a higher risk of depression.

Back Pain.  The big D increases a person's risk of getting back pain.  Conversely, people with chronic back pain may become depressed.

Agitation.  Depression often brings on agitation and its associated symptoms of irritability and restlessness (e.g., can't sit still).  Depressed men are more likely than women to be irritable.  These symptoms can impact sleep quality.

Digestive Problems.  It seems that our brain and digestive system are intricatly related to each other.  Depression can cause the physical symptoms of nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation.

Headaches.  Headaches from depression can be chronic.  Also, depression increases likelihood of a migraine.

Weight or Appetite Change.  Depression can cause people to eat too much or lose their appetite.  This results in weight gain or loss.

Sex.  Depression might impact your sex drive and performance for the worse.  Antidepressants side effects can also affect sex.

Mania Physical Symptoms

Sleeping.  Less than three hours of sleep a night for several nights in a row may be plenty of sleep for someone in a manic state.  The greatly reduced need for sleep is a hallmark indicator symptom of bipolar mania.

Energy.  The elated mood and euphoria of mania is known to produce much higher energy levels in people.  In turn, this makes for more active, inappropriate behaviors such as the spendy $8,000 vacation I took on a whim.

Agitation. Manic individuals are unsettled and active by nature.  They can become irritable easily.

Sex.  Undesireable or risky sexual activity often arises from mania.  I plead the 5th on this.

Drug/Alcohol.  Mania makes individuals more susceptible to trying or improperly using street drugs, recreational prescription drugs, and alcohol.  Someone's alcohol or substance use may be to control the flood of racing thought caused by mania.


Physical bipolar symptoms receive less attention than emotional and cognitive symptoms but they can be quite severe.  Now that you know they exist you can be watchful for physical bipolar symptoms.  Keep notes on yourself and tell your doctor about any physical problems you may have at your next visit.  They may or may not be from bipolar disorder.  Your doctor may call for additional tests to rule out other possible causes of physical problems.

Have you taken our current POLL: How Long from First Symptoms to Diagnosis?  It's on the top left hand area of this blog.  Please do if it applies to you, meaning you "officially" have bipolar disorder.


  1. I began to write a blog about depression and bipolar disorder in general... Cause I feel myself a little bit ill...
    It's my blog... You can find my own symptemos there... Maybe it can help you...

  2. Kate - Thanks for checking in. I read your blog, good work. I like what you said: "today I feel myself like a bear who has fallen into the lethargy of winter." That's me exactly lately.