Bipolar Disorder? The Difference Between These Two Things


Today I want to talk to you about two words:


There is a difference between “activity” and “productivity,” especially when it comes to your

loved one. Productivity, for the most part, involves having something to show for your “activity.” I’ll show you what I mean.

Scenario #1:

Lisa works as an office worker in a major corporation. Her co-workers are very busy, so no one has time no notice what Lisa is doing – they can’t tell if she is being productive or not. So Lisa walks around carrying files in her arms for most of the day, looking as if she is busy (just in case anyone happens to be looking). Is Lisa being productive? No, Lisa is showing some activity, but is not actually being productive.

Scenario #2:

Mary works for a virtual organization in the customer service department; in other words, she works from home. So there is no one looking over her shoulder, no one to see if she is really working or not. However, she spends more time on the phone with the other members of the virtual organization than actually talking to customers. Is Mary productive? No. Talking on the phone is an activity, but it is not really productive. In fact, in this case, it’s worse, because it’s a distraction to the other members of the organization who can’t get their own work done while they’re on the phone with Mary.

Scenario #3:

George has bipolar disorder and when he’s depressed, he tends to sleep more often. The answer may seem obvious, but is George productive? No, because although sleep is an activity, it isn’t productive, since there is nothing to show for it. In fact, in the case of bipolar disorder, it can be harmful to your loved one. Too little sleep can lead to a bipolar manic episode, and too much sleep can lead to a bipolar depressive episode.

Scenario #4:

Bill watches quite a bit of TV. His wife accuses him of being lazy, but he argues that at least he is doing something with his time! Is Bill really being productive since he is doing something

with his time, as he says? Bill is doing something with his time, as watching TV is an activity. However, it is not a productive activity, as once you are done watching TV, you really have nothing to show for it. So Bill is not really what I would consider productive.


You want your loved one to be more than the examples in the scenarios I just described. You want them to be productive, since that will help them manage their bipolar disorder better. You want them to be productive, because that will make them feel better about themselves. You want them to be productive, because productivity brings more quality to a person’s life (bipolar or not).

So how can you help?

You can encourage your loved one to start making To-Do Lists, detailing out tasks they want to accomplish. These can be things around the house, outside the house, or errands they can run.

The list doesn’t have to be long, but just something to make them feel a sense of accomplishment.

The difference between activity and productivity is having a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. And that can help your loved one feel better about themselves, increasing their self-esteem. Being productive will keep your loved one from being bored (one of the triggers to a bipolar episode). Being productive will also keep your loved one from getting depressed (which could also lead to a bipolar episode).

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. Hello Dave;

    Thank you for the email on productivity. It is good to hear that supporters need to remind and help bipolar people stay on track however it is another scenario that has happened to me.

    My wife would be greatly productive and supportive and then it all just stopped. She just let it all go. i tried to help and remind and live by example and her reply was: I just don’t care what you or anyone else thinks. i have been a people pleaser for too long and it is not truly who I am. the whole last 7 years of marriage has been a lie. This is who I am, like it or not. I want a Do Over. These are the things she said.

    I tried my best to be understanding and she chose to not respond. I am left with a person who is very difficult to deal with through a separation and divorce that I have felt could have been prevented. A huge lack of communication and an immaturity to take responsibility for any action on her part has brought us to this point. She has a degree and yet still only works part time in a pet store. Every few months she needs me to send her more money.

    At this point all I can do is give her what she wants and try my best to still be standing when it is over.

    Thank You

  2. thank you for the article/insight on activity vs productivity. Sometime you just need to see in black and white.


  3. my husband is bipolar along with ocd. he is a control freak who cant control his mouth or actions. he very much a dictator always telling me to do something, (like i dont have a brain of my own), very seldom has anything nice to say, always going off the handle. he took himself off his meds, says he doesnt need them and wont go back to the dr. i cant live in his perfect little world of OCD but expects me to. help

  4. i’m sick and tired of hearing how we (the normal people) have to adjust our lives according their world. i have no sympathy for people who refuse help and take their anger out on the people closest to them. they know exactly what their doing.

  5. he makes list out everyday, some of them (mostly all) are rediculous,like reminding urself to do laundry, bathe, brush teeth, and the list goes on and on. we should own stock in paper. we have kitchen cabinets that he wont use everything has to be out on the counter, if u could see what my kitchen and basement look like, its a joke. doesnt like people to come over cause then the house will be messed up, i do things at time just to mess things up, terrible, uh, but if he can drive me crazy, i can do the same to him.

  6. Dear Dave and all readers,
    Thot I’d chime in on this one. My name is Lynn and I’m an alcoholic; sober & active in A.A. for some time now. [Thank you, God!!] I also live w/Bipolar II Depression, one day @ a time. I live alone [ex. for 2 cats, my companion animals], so I sorta need to be my own ‘bipolar supporter.’ I have close friends that I’m on the phone w/every day, and I stay busy in ‘service’ to Alcoholics Anonymous [=secretarying mtgs., sponsoring, Teleservice Hotline, etc.] I’ve kinda drifted away fm. regular church attendance for abt. the last 3 mos.; not sure why. I make lists, esp. on days I’m doin’ my errands; thinking of the rising gas prices!! I have a strong faith in God, and will be getting to church svcs. this upcoming w/end. Thank you for letting me share, and for being part of my support system. Oh, I have a therapist, too….

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