Obsessive Focus in Bipolar Disorder
In speaking with people who have bipolar disorder, I’ve found that a fair proportion have one of the same character traits I do - getting so wrapped up in an activity that it starts taking up more and more time - time that should be spent fulfilling responsibilities.
This obsessive focus has been a part of my behavior for a long time. For example, during two depressive episodes in a row, I spent as much as 8 hours a day sitting on the couch with the television on (watching almost anything) while crocheting. During that time I made 6 afghans, some matching pillows, sweaters, baby clothes and baby afghans, along with a long winter scarf and mittens for myself. Many of these items were donated to charity.
When I first discovered roleplay chat, I dived into it and barely came up for air. I was in chat from the moment I got up to the moment I had to leave for work, and from the minute I got home until bedtime. That’s when I first started eating meals at the computer, a habit I kind of wish I’d never started.
A couple of years ago I began chat roleplaying again, but now I restrict my hours in chat religiously, spending only time I can afford to spend on roleplay.
When I discovered a particular type of computer game several years ago, there was a long period where those games ate up hours of my day, every day. And I still have trouble controlling the amount of time I spend playing computer solitaire.
Is this a bipolar trait? With your mind focused on one activity to the exclusion of everything else, you’re not thinking about your mood, you’re not worrying about what isn’t getting done. You’ve put your mind in a pocket, leaving your depression, doubts, fears and, I think, especially your anxiety outside. It’s an anodyne. It takes the place of spending your time focusing on all those other negative things.
This wouldn’t be singular to bipolar disorder. It probably occurs a lot in people who have major depression or anxiety disorders. It’s so much more comfortable being in that pocket of activity instead of being in a cave stuffed with sadness, guilt, anger and anxiety
Does this sound like you? I’d love to hear about it - leave a comment!
Marcia wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Mental Disorders.