10 Reasons Mental Illness Makes People So Tired

“My brain won’t shut down. It keeps running a marathon and I stay exhausted. Not sleepy… just tired to the bone.”
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By Sarah Schuster

Living with a mental illness can be exhausting. As a contributor to The Mighty, a digital health site, Rose-Anne Meyer, wrote, “For me, ‘I’m tired’ is not a complaint or (being) pessimistic. It’s merely a fact of life.”

But why does living with a mental illness make people so tired?

Well, depending on who you are, the reason probably varies. Sometimes the nature of your mental illness can make you tired — like when depression makes everyday tasks feel impossible, or when obsessive-compulsive disorder’s compulsions take up so much of your time.

Other times, the world makes living with a mental illness exhausting. You may feel like you have to hide who you are or how you’re doing, suppressing your feelings for the sake of “fitting in.”

To explore some of the reasons why, we consulted with our mental health community. Their answers are revealing, and if you can relate, you’re not alone.

Here are some reasons living with a mental illness can make people feel so tired:

1. You have to pretend to be OK all the time.

“The mask. No matter what you are doing, where you are, who you’re with or how you’re feeling, the mask is always there. Wearing it is exhausting, like if you were forced to wear a 10-ton weight on your shoulders all the time. But the fear of how people would react if you didn’t wear it … that’s like a 200-ton weight. So you wear the mask, even though it’s exhausting.” — Joleen Q.

“I try to not ‘show’ my mental illness, so I overcompensate by pretending to be super outgoing and happy. The show is exhausting, but must go on. I try to keep everything inside so I don’t burden anyone else.” — Rebecca B.

“It’s exhausting to have to pretend you’re OK all the time.” — Harley D.

2. You can be in a constant war with your thoughts.

“You spend the majority of your time fighting your own thoughts … no matter what else you’re doing.” — Malanya D.

“You’re constantly fighting internal battles that feel like physical ones. Your mind races and it feels like you’re running a marathon … The fight is harder than any physical activity I’ve ever doåne times 100, except you don’t get the option to stop and catch your breath.” — Andi S.

3. You experience sensory/emotional overload.

“Because my brain is tired from the overload. The overload of emotions, things to do, thinking about things to do. Which then makes my body tired. Which then makes me do nothing I should do. Which then makes me feel useless, and subsequently more tired.” — Christine T.

4. You may have to deal with relapses.

“Relapses. Things work out, medications work and you function well. Then out of nowhere you get so much worse, it hits you so bad that it feels like all the time and the efforts you spent working on yourself, it’s for nothing … Then when it passes, the damage has been already done, and you have to start all over again.” — Aya F.

5. You have to deal with other people’s ignorance.

“When people say you’re using your mental illness as an excuse. I’m sorry I have bipolar disorder, but not because of how it affects you. It affects every single part of my life, how I perceive things, how I handle things. I’m terribly sorry I’m an inconvenience for you and your perfect life. I’m simply trying my hardest to get through each day alive.” — Tiffney L.

“It makes me tired having to justify myself to everyone. When I’m having a panic attack on a morning, the last thing I need is an interrogation from my employer, who already knows about my depression and anxiety. It’s exhausting and only makes me feel worse.” — Jenn H.

6. Your brain never “turns off.”

“I wake up and my mind starts racing and the anxiety begins and I’m fighting it all day long. It’s a battle with my mind for the entirety of the day and by the time night comes I’m just exhausted.” — Laci L.

“My mind is always active and awake. I struggle to sleep at night, but all I want to do is sleep during the day. I often find myself low in energy because I’m constantly racing mentally. It never stops.” — Nina R.

“My brain won’t shut down. It keeps running a marathon and I stay exhausted. Not sleepy… just tired to the bone.” — Michele F.

“With anxiety and PTSD my mind is always on high alert, preparing for the next disaster. I also frequently have running thoughts. There’s almost always noise in my head. I’m a fairly creative person so I try to channel that energy into creating, but there are very few moments where my mind is quiet and calm. It’s exhausting on my mind and body.” — Mary N.

7. It affects your quality of sleep.

“Bad sleeping patterns and bad sleep quality. We either oversleep or don’t get enough sleep. I often find I force myself to stay awake until the point of ‘gone as soon as I close my eyes’ to avoid having time for my mind to start overthinking. And even when I sleep plenty, I wake up exhausted. I’m exhausted 24/7.” — Adeena A.

“Total lack of a productive or restful sleep pattern.” — Adam P.

“It takes me hours to fall asleep. Mind is always thinking and worrying. I wake up tired nearly every day.” — Danielle H.

8. Dealing with mood swings.

“The crash from mania to depression. Going from no sleep at all just wanting sleep 24/7, it’s exhausting.” — Amy W.

“I have BPD and it makes me so tired because my moods change every other hour or so, and it’s draining. I can’t sleep well at night most nights either because anxiety and paranoia keep me awake.” — Holly B.

“The overwhelming intense emotions burn me out quick.” — Dawn L.

9. Treatment can be exhausting.

“After a therapy session, or even worse, after the days with multiple treatment sessions (like psychiatrist + social worker + nutritionist all in one day) you are mentally exhausted or at least seriously drained and all you want to do is sleep.” — Ariana M.

10. Even “small” tasks can feel hard.

“When you’re depressed everything takes extra effort. I have a hard time getting out of bed and taking a shower, so by the time I leave for work I’m already exhausted. The most minor tasks require so much effort and most days it feels like all I can do is try to make it until the next time I can sleep again.” — Rachel B.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

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