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Aversion to Work = Bipolar Symptom


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My 21-year-old daughter was always a hard worker. She would give anything she tried her best shot and she worked harder than anyone I know at school, work, sports, volunteering, etc. Unfortunately, her attitude changed when she started having symptoms of what we now know is Bipolar II.

She has been at 200mg of Lamictal since December. Her p-doc considers this a therapeutic dose and they both seem happy with her meds. My daughter sees a counselor weekly. They seem happy with her progress.

The problem? My daughter has an aversion to work. She works 15-20 hours a week and would work less, if she could could. She "supports" herself by milking the welfare system. For example, she does her grocery "shopping" at the local food shelves -- yet goes out for sushi several times a week. You get the picture....

Her aversion to work and general laziness are almost the opposite of what she used to be like. Is this a part of her bipolarity -- or is this now her personality?

Thank you for any insights.

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Could be bp. Could be laziness. I've been there. I've bounced back--from having 1-2 jobs in high school to barely working to having (for the summer) 2 jobs again.

Could be bp. Could be laziness. Maybe lamictal just ain't quite the right thing, or maybe the hard work was a sign of bp (manic?) or maybe, like me, when one stops working so hard one finds out how nice it is to relax...much like when I got braces and stopped brushing my teeth cuz it hurt, my dental health went to hell, and is maybe now--after 15 years--just coming back.

Some definate boot-to-the-ass is in order. Even at my lowest I wanted to work, and full time, though I knew I'd hate it (and I do!) cuz I knew that's what it would take to feel "whole". Living that life, she won't go anywhere, and she just won't improve, I'm afraid.

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Wow.

I'll just curtail the rant and say this.

When I'm manic, I work. A lot. 70-80h weeks become the norm, or they used to. It's amazing what I can do when I'm not sleeping. I work harder than anyone I know at lots of things.

When I'm not manic, I work. But I also spend time with family and friends, doing things like... going out for sushi. I've learned to do that, because otherwise I work those 70-80h weeks, and then I go off-the-rails manic.

I've also learned to not work 60h/week as my baseline, although I'm creeping back up to it. I'd be a lot better off cutting back to 20 hours, I think. That hyperthymic temperament is really kicking my ass.

Maybe you and your daughter and her therapist should sit down and discuss the difference between laziness and self-care. There's a balance, like CNS says.

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The problem? My daughter has an aversion to work. She works 15-20 hours a week and would work less, if she could could. She "supports" herself by milking the welfare system. For example, she does her grocery "shopping" at the local food shelves -- yet goes out for sushi several times a week. You get the picture....

Her aversion to work and general laziness are almost the opposite of what she used to be like. Is this a part of her bipolarity -- or is this now her personality?

Hmm, well I would give both of you the benefit of the doubt! ;)

- On what are you basing your evaluation of laziness? Has she explicitly stated she has no desire to work and intends to scam the welfare system? Certainly thats unacceptable, but there may be legitimate reasons for her behavior.

- It probably isn't fair to use the old untreated behaviors you admired as the baseline for comparison from here out. Bipolar disorder is a major mental illness, and it isn't kind. She may not be capable of working like she used to or even a portion of what she did. Her capacity may improve or it may not. While we should be encouraging, the last thing you want to do is push her into situations over her head and cause increased stress leading to a relapse.

- It is not unusual to experience difficulty in concentration, memory recall problems due to both theh illness and the meds, which make accomplishing tasks stressful and difficult. Likewise, interacting with people can difficult. All of which can make job hunting pretty unappealing.

If you can't talk to her pdoc & therapist, I guess you will have to sort out her motivations and concerns by talking with her.

Good luck. a.m.

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Guest HurricaneJessiee

I've been having the same exact problem. I'm 22 years old, graduated Magna Cum Laude last year, and was as enthusiastic, driven, overextended person I knew. In my senior year, I juggled 18 credits and 3 jobs a semester. Upon graduation, I had a decent job as an assistant at an NYC non-profit.

Then I had my first manic/psychotic episode in February, landing me in the hospital for 19 days.

Since then, I've been out of work and living back at home. It took me a while to adjust to my medications to a functioning level, but I think I've been okay enough to work for a few months now. Something inside me that I can't really describe has been preventing me from making a move. I spent my time sitting watching TV, and I have recently started to go out with my friends again.

I think that what everyone has said so far is coming pretty close...Although I hate to admit it...my over-enthusiasm, motivation, sleepless nights working, and thirst for more was probably linked to mania, or at least hypomania. I went over the edge, and it was so scary...I think my body is scared about that ever happening again. Plus, the medications are probably preventing me from doing anything too drastic.

Remember....Being in your early twenties and going through a mid-life crisis is confusing enough. Imagine adding having to adjust to a mood disorder, and serious psychotropic drugs! It sucks to be us.

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wow. this is so familiar.

i'm not bipolar (well i don't think so, but hell you never know), but my brain kinda broke during my last semester of university (i think i was 26? 27? i started late cause i did it backwards and became a parent first heh).

i was an extremely high achiever/producer (using i loosely, there are several "me"s!) up until that point. i also graduated cum laude, was about to begin an honours thesis in neuropsych, and, well.... yeah after the first MAJOR depression, all that was gone.

while i was studying at full capacity plus - 12 months of the year because i refused to take summers off - i was raising a kid alone and working part-time and running volunteer groups and trying to get elected president of the student council and writing papers for money (um now that i think about it, it does sound kinda manic, can you be manic for four years straight?).

then i dropped out completely. i couldn't study anything to save my life. none of it made sense and i didn't care anyway.

people still think i'll be like that again. it's been 12 years. for only two years afterward i was able to hold on to a job without cracking up (hey ephiphany again - i was working 60+ hours a week, i guess i still believed i could do it for awhile).

my family thought for years and years that i was lazy, not pushing myself, milking the system, you name it. all those opinions did was drive a huge wedge through an already cracked relationship. i didn't see my family for several years. it hurt too much that they didn't/refused to understand.

now they get it. i don't know if it's just that they pretend now, or they really believe me when they say trying to work was way too much for me then (i'm almost there if i can get over what i am going through right now dear lord please anytime soon).

after i realised i couldn't work at first, i gave up trying. i didn't care anymore if i ever worked again. because in my head, if i couldn't perform like i always had, i couldn't do it at all. it was too humiliating. too much of a depressive trigger. had to do lots of therapy work on that idea - that i might never be the same person, but i can still do stuff that matters, stuff that gives me agency in the big bad world out there.

so your daughter's behaviour doesn't sound way out there to me. if it were my daughter, i am sure it would be driving me insane watching what i thought was that person i raised turning into someone else i totally didn't recognize - or really admire at this stage of her illness. i'm really sorry you have to go through that. you're entitled to feeling angry and disappointed and all of those things.

just don't tell her that. she'd perceive it as a rejection, and it would probably be crushing, no matter how irresponsibly she might be behaving.

i wish i knew what to say that would make it better for either of you. all i can say from this end, is she'll be ready to try again one day. there's no telling what she'll be capable of, or not, in the future. but if she's going through a period of time when she's just given up on that part of life, anything anyone says to encourage her might not be well-received. the best thing you can do, i think, is just keep being her mom. be one of the rare things in life that doesn't go away when you lose your mind (like your education and career and most of your friends). even if she doesn't know it now, she'll be so grateful. and when she's ready she'll trust you enough to ask you for help changing her circumstances.

best of luck to both of you.

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i'm 18, i have bipolar.

when i am depressed, or meds are increasing, or if im overly-stressed - i feel soooo lethargic and don't feel like doing anything. Currently i'm feeling very depressed, so i hate everything, hate my job, hate uni, hate my whole life. I would rather just sleep all the time and pick the easiest option always.

however, 'normal' for me is doing more than everyone else...

and my manic stages involve me planning huge projects and taking on more and more things to do so i have no free time, so i stop sleeping to have more free time but then fill it up with more activities. i work more and get frustrated if i'm not working or studying. - overproductive.

i think meds can be a huge factor in tiredness and apathy. Also signs of depression. also maybe signs of recovering from mania. maybe also just the absence of those manic behaviours.

i feel like the last two years for me have been a big pile of lazy and exhaustion. maybe its just getting used to being incapable of things we used to be great at .

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