Bipolar Disorder and Inner Restlessness -- What Is It; How to Cope

January 4, 2018 Natasha Tracy

Sometimes bipolar disorder can cause inner restlessness. But what is inner restlessness, what causes it and how do you cope with it in bipolar disorder?So often during the day I tell myself to, "Calm down," but this isn't because I'm buzzing around my apartment, it's because of my bipolar inner restlessness. Telling me to calm down would be natural if I was climbing the walls, but sitting still on my couch doesn't seem to be the time to do it. And yet, I do it all the time. It's very real and very necessary. Inner restlessness in bipolar disorder is real and it's necessary to know how to deal with it.

What Is Inner Restlessness in Bipolar Disorder?

"Inner restlessness" is what it sounds like, and yet it's hard for people to conceptualize it. It's like if your brain were bouncing off of your skull repeatedly. It's as if your cells were vibrating. It's as if there were an electrical current running through your insides that you just couldn't get rid of.

I guess the closest thing some people would experience is when they have too much caffeine, only instead of running around and doing things with all the extra energy, somehow, the body internalizes it.

Sometimes I feel such restlessness inside that I feel dizzy.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder Inner Restlessness?

"Inner restlessness" is, in fact, part of a bipolar disorder symptom. The actual symptom is known as psychomotor agitation (psychomotor agitation also involves muscle movements). Inner (and outer) restlessness in bipolar can also be a medication side effect. This means that you could be experiencing inner restlessness as a symptom of the disease or from a treatment of the disease. It's a little unfair.

(This is very much like saying that a migraine medication may cause headaches -- which is exactly what my migraine medication said last week.)

I can't say if things like severe stress or other psychological factors cause the same feeling, but it wouldn't surprise me if, in some cases, it does.

How to Cope with Bipolar Inner Restlessness

Like I said, I tend to tell myself to calm down. In fact, I don't just say this in my head, but I actually say it out loud. "Calm down." It's not like this magically turns off the restlessness, but it's a reminder that it's the bipolar inner restlessness that is, indeed, occurring and that I need to fight it in the ways that I can.

To cope with bipolar disorder inner restlessness, try:

  • Acknowledging the problem -- If something is going to torture me, the least I can do is admit that it is alive and doing that. Identifying and acknowledging the problem really is the first step to coping.
  • Breathing -- Yes, I know, you're doing it right now, but when the inner restlessness is really bad, you may be breathing a lot less and a lot less deeply. Take time to force yourself to take slow, deep breaths.
  • Yoga or stretching exercises -- Doing things slowly and pointedly can force the brain to slow down as you force the rest of your body to do the same.
  • Meditation --Not everyone meditates and not everyone wants to. But if you lie still with your eyes closed, take deep breaths, and focus your mind and brain on something you control (think about something simple and interesting to you), that can help, really. (As an example, sometimes I think of a piece of chalk slowly and cursively writing each letter of the alphabet.) Remember, meditation isn't what "masters" say it is, necessarily, it's what works for you. Don't call it meditation if that helps.
  • Giving yourself a break -- I find that if I just keep working and keep going and keep producing this does not help the situation. Requiring my brain to think quickly while working on top of the bipolar inner restlessness is not the best idea. Try taking a break and doing the above as calmly as you can.

Basically, I think that if you can purposefully slow down your physical body and thoughts, you can reduce inner restlessness to some degree. These coping skills for bipolar disorder inner restless are far from perfect, but they're something.

If you are experiencing notable inner restlessness, make sure to tell your doctor. As I said, it could be a medication side effect or a symptom that can be addressed through treatment or treatment changes.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2018, January 4). Bipolar Disorder and Inner Restlessness -- What Is It; How to Cope, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 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.

December, 8 2023 at 11:05 am

Really? You’re telling people who take antipsychotics that it’s just part of their bipolar and not a side effect called Akathisia? Why?

December, 11 2023 at 1:31 pm

Hi Meg,
As I mentioned in the article, it can be the side effect of a medication or an effect of the illness. This article happens to be about the latter.
You're absolutely right that some psychiatric medications can cause akathisia.
-- Natasha Tracy

December, 10 2020 at 5:45 am

I agree with this article 100%.

December, 1 2020 at 2:34 pm

Hmmm...I’m gonna kind of have to disagree with you and call BS on the suggestions above.. Medication is the only fix...for severe cases of I have...Calling it out and acknowledging it along with meditation are exercises in futility...I know cause I tried all the above....endlessly for a week....You can try to give your self a break, but your Bipolar 2 won’t give you a break... Medication is the only remedy...My meds were mailed to me last month because of Covid and my doctor was traveling... so she mailed them out the day I ran out, on the 30th day of my last script fill... for some reason it took 7 days to arrive...for 7 agonizing days they were in transit with all the other holiday mail... so I paced my living room, back yard, and and then rocked back and forth on my couch like a retard till the sun came up...I did all of the suggested remedies you listed above...useless....but I kept on trying..all day and all night....I called it out loud, and acknowledge it...tried meditation with the soft spiritual music in the background....and the result was the same all day and into the wee hours.... the driving urge to keep pacing till the sun came up was the winner in the battle of the will verses the mind....exhaustion was my remedy.....nothing fixes bipolar 2/ADHD insane restlessness like my prescribed mood stabilizer and my ADHD meds.... I liked your article though...sorry for the candid criticism... a cup of tea and just relaxing doesn’t fix this guys symptoms...
I forgot how crazy I actually was untill I went 7 days with out my meds for the first time in 5 years...

December, 3 2020 at 7:11 am

Hi Anonymous,
I'm sorry you had to go through that. Seven days can be a very long time.
I don't disagree with your experience. It was yours and I believe you. What I would say, though, is that not everyone is the same and these tips will help some people. I'm sorry that they didn't help you.
- Natasha Tracy

May, 13 2018 at 6:16 pm

Irritation and inner agitation is also present in major depression too.

January, 26 2018 at 12:52 pm

I go through this everyday so.etimes i feel its going to drive me over the edge. Yhank you for sharing it helps ro know im not alone

January, 10 2018 at 5:03 am

My diagnosis is BiPolar II depression. I don't know if I'm restless but I have racing and obsessive thoughts at night. Is the restlessness more associated with BiPolar 1? I love your posts

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
January, 10 2018 at 5:51 am

Hi Sue,
Thank you :)
I have bipolar II as well, so I don't believe it is specific to bipolar type.
- Natasha Tracy

January, 9 2018 at 1:34 pm

I struggle with this alot. For years I didn't know what it was and wasn't diagnosed properly. At least knowing what it is and acknowledging it helps deal with it knowing it isn't just you that feels this way.

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