Sleep deprived, not bipolar

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

When I was 7 my mom died of lung cancer,she was 43. Now I’m 13 and my dad has a girl friend and she moved in and my dad barely talks to me anymore. So I feel so lonely so I think that’s where it all started. I ALWAYS feel sad and hopeless. I have no changes in weight which is good. My sleeping patterns change during the school year I don’t go to bed till at least 3:00 am and I wake up at 6. Then the next night it’s the opposite. I think about death but I don’t consider it because I’m way to scared and my best friend keeps me alive. But yet at other times I feel happy and have a high self esteem. I also sometimes have good energy and not that tired. My speech is okay like sometimes I can’t talk right. I’ve had one breakdown in January. My stress levels are very high and I do have some anxiety but not that bad. I always think something is my fault and I always think that people are talking about me and really aren’t my friend. I also tried cutting and starving myself but I chickened out. I have back pains when nothings causing it and I sometimes get headaches too for no reason. My aunt is bipolar so I’m wondering if I can also be/get bipolar sometime in my life. I have high fatigue and some irritability.Sometimes I can get angry and people don’t know what I’m angry about and sometimes I don’t either. I also go to therapy and I’m not on any form of medicine. So please help me. Thanks.

A: I’m very sorry you’re having such a hard time. I hope you are talking honestly with your therapist about what you’ve written here. We therapists wish we were mind-readers but we’re not. If people don’t tell us their thoughts and feelings, there isn’t much we can do except guess. With most appointments lasting less than an hour, we’d like to get right down to business and use the time well. It’s up to you to bring up important issues right away.

My guess is that you are still grieving your mom. Your dad is moving on before you are ready to. You feel like you’re losing him too. He’s caught up in a new relationship and is probably unaware that you are feeling left out of his life. If that weren’t enough, you are at an age when your body is adjusting to becoming an adult. It’s normal to feel moody and to have ups and downs but that doesn’t make it any easier.

My biggest concern, though, is your sleep patterns. Of course you have fatigue. Of course you are irritable. You absolutely need 8 – 10 hours sleep a night to be physically and mentally healthy. There is a reason for your headaches. It’s lack of enough sleep. It’s also possible that the “breakdown” was related to sleep deprivation. Same thing with the anxiety and moodiness and speech problems. I very much doubt that you have bipolar illness. I’d at least want to rule out all these other sleep-related issues before considering it.

Please talk to your therapist about ways to get your sleep cycles back where they should be. It’s obvious that you are intelligent and know how to research things on the Internet. Look into sleep disorders and how they are treated and you may also be able to help yourself.

I don’t know enough to comment on whether you need medicine (although I doubt it). But I absolutely do know that you need sleep!

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Jul 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Sleep deprived, not bipolar. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/07/10/sleep-deprived-not-bipolar/