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 Marcia Purse

About Bipolar Facebook Fan Asks About Avoidance Behavior

By February 11, 2013

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This is one of my most popular blogs ever, so it's time to bring it to everyone's attention again.

On the About Bipolar Disorder Facebook page, a fan named Laurie asked this question:

"I would like to know if anybody else engages in avoidance behavior by not doing things that NEED to be done but instead doing any and every or nothing else. My bedroom has been a mess for 2 months. What's up with that? I have 2 lousy bills to pay. I just don't pay them. Why?"

My own response was, "I find that if I have one job I dislike on my to-do list, I wind up not tackling the list at all. I used to have 'clean cat boxes' near the end of the list, and then I'd not get that far and forget. So I put it near the top of the list, and since it's an icky job, I still haven't started the list yet."

Avoidance leads to messesFan Wendy said, "I am the same way. I just keep putting everything off until i have no choice but to deal with it then i get overwhelmed by it. sad"

Maureen's reply is, "Yes, its a bad habit of mine - I put them off until my anxiety forces me to do something. It's as if I am waiting for good old hypomania to visit and do it all for me, but my p-doc won't let me do that!"

Michelle commented, "Wow...you all need to stop talking about me. wink"

What about you?

Photo by Marcia Purse ©2013

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February 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm
(1) JimA says:

I live this way, like right now! Doesn’t seem to change with what’s on the list; I’m just too tired, or too hungry, or I’ll just play one game, or I’ll just read email first, or … On and on. Meanwhile the house is a disaster, the laundry is piling higher & wider, notices and requests for action remain unanswered, all to the point of being hopelessly overwhelmed and unable to choose a starting point. “Just do SOMETHING” doesn’t work anymore. And no one knows; NEVER ask for help. (Sigh)

February 22, 2011 at 9:05 pm
(2) siddigfan says:

I really hate to say it but I have been this way my whole life and I’m fifty now. I have such a short attention span when it comes to cleaning and organizing. It doesn’t help that I have the hoarding kind of OCD. Papers pile up everywhere and I’m terrified to throw some3thing out for fear I’ll need it later.

April 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm
(3) Brad says:

Your problem is not that you have a short attention span when it comes to cleaning and organizing. The problem is that you are procrastinating because you then have to confront the stuff that you are anxious to throw away (for fear of needing it later). Your avoidance in organzing and cleaning produces more anxiety as things pile up. Take the leap and just start throwing away things you haven’t used in over a year. Then start throwing away things you haven’t used in six months. The more you discard unneeded things, the easier it becomes and the less anxiety you will have and therefore the less avoidance. Like phobias, you need to confront your fear and you will learn that in time you will no longer remember the things you’ve thrown away. And it will be then you will realize that you never needed them to begin with. Your life does not get harder when you get rid of unneeded things, it gets easier. After all, they are just things and things should not control your life. You will feel so free and in control and GREAT if you just start. You can do it – I was like you and I did it. Free yourself from being enslaved with your stuff. No amount of things is worth the anxiety and depression that hoarding causes. GO FOR IT!!

February 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm
(4) Brenda says:

I am “Queen of Avoidance”!!! I’ve been avoiding everything for so long I wouldn’t even have an ideal where to start either. Need to do house repairs in the back of my house. Answer: Move to the front! Ignore the back! I want to sell the house and move to a smaller one but can’t do that until the back is done! And yes I agree: Never ask for help. No one ever offers. Oh well, I’ll find something else not to do! :)

February 22, 2011 at 7:48 am
(5) chantal says:

I do this too esp reading and once I get started I LOVE to read no clue why I do it I will also do it with making the bed like if I dont make it I can get back in or making phone calls is the worse

February 20, 2011 at 2:06 am
(6) emerald says:

me. this is chronic procrastination as well.

i wanna give up.

February 22, 2011 at 4:53 am
(7) Debbi says:

Is there a med for this because I really can’t live like this any longer!!

February 22, 2011 at 5:49 am
(8) tj says:

i was like that when i was on aps on top of lithium. i didn’t clean my room once for the three years i was on aps. my mom had to do it because i was extremely apathetic and too tired to do any kind of housework, ever. needless to say, as soon as i got off the aps altogether, i was back to my normal self – cleaning and organizing on a routine basis throughout the day with no procrastination whatsoever. funny huh!

February 22, 2011 at 5:50 am
(9) Mr. Bill says:

Feel this way ALL of the time. Feels like laziness, sloughliness, whatever…? Does it matter? (Kind-of attitude) I don’t like it. i’ve ben doing the ultraradian thing for years. tired of it. But I guess it’s part of the deal ?

February 22, 2011 at 5:53 am
(10) Sandy says:

Hi everyone,

I feel like this all the time. I write lists of what I want to accomplish each day, but not being able to cross things off is disheartening to say the least. I’ve figured out that for me the best option is to not have too high expectations of myself, and more often than not I’m quietly surprised by what I did actually do, even if those things were not on “the list”. I tend to start out with great intentions but I’m so easily distracted by my change of moods and can spend hours just feeling stuck if I analyse it too much. I never seem to do what I’m supposed to do and end up starting projects I could never possibly finish in the short term, and leave the simple tasks of washing the dishes behind. I have a $6000 roof repair to take care of – how long have I been putting it off ? About 7 yrs… can’t seem to get my head around looking after my finances, I succumb to a glass of wine each night instead. The “hangover” of not taking responsibility is costing me too much, but I honestly feel like a zombie with the meds I’m on. Somethings gotta give, and soon !

February 22, 2011 at 9:00 am
(11) Barrie says:

Sandy. I’m allot like you with my behavior. I too have a house in desperate need of repair but the roof needs the first. I’ve been putting off things for a very long time and I was never one for leaving things or not paying bills or just getting off my lazy butt and doing something, anything. I had the money to do the things that needed to be done but with these tough economic times, its really turned things upside down. My anxiety levels go up. My sleep is as bad as it has been in a long time and I’m just not doing what I need too. Like you I always try to start something with the best of intentions and sometimes I can follow through but rarely finish. It’s very frustrating. I think about what needs to be done almost daily and I keep putting them off like others mention in previous comments. Even my job (which I like very much) is starting to be effected because I am doing the same things here with this behavior. My job relies of being timely and following up but then I become overwhelmed and back away. My boss is the best but eventually he is going to tire of this too. It’s a double whammy. I thought if I let my spouse take care of the finances then things would get better but its almost as if she has become like me through osmosis. Is this just me? I can’t wait till the weekends to get home (I live elsewhere during the week for work then head home) and get out the wine or beer and try to forget, only to wake up in the middle of the night anxious about the things I haven’t done. The pdoc things behavioral mod’s should change things but I tried it before and it was great when I was in session but as soon as I left it only returned. The cycle keeps returning. I also agree with your last line strongly “Somethings gotta give, and soon!” That just creates more anxiety and guilt. hmmm

February 22, 2011 at 10:42 am
(12) Lisa says:

Wow, every single one of your comments is me. As a matter of fact, I’m putting off things right now to “check my email, oh…and read my Bipolar newsletter…and oh…I HAVE to respond! My house is a wreck – I’m trying to cram 1 year of office filing for our home business into 1 week….It makes me so tired and overwhelmed. I just keep thinking, “if only” (I could finish ________, then I could do________….. ). Thank you all for showing me that it’s not only me.

February 23, 2011 at 4:50 am
(13) Brenda says:

I was able to get my roof fixed. It took another year to get the leak they left patched. Then we found out we had mold! Now I have a large den, dinning room, and two bedrooms to remodel! I’ve got the furniture out of one, thanks to my husband, but haven’t been able to get the other stuff out, so I can’t do anything more. I’ve lived with my house like this for so long I’m ready for a break down. Maybe I’m just putting it off because I know that it is going to be such a long progress to get it all done. I feel so overwhelmed! I don’t even know where to start. It brings me to tears just thinking about it. How do you start? I wake up in the morning not feeling like doing anything. I take a nap in the afternoon and go to bed early. (I also have FM/CFS) I can’t afford to have anyone do this for me, so I know I have to do it. Somehow.

February 22, 2011 at 7:53 am
(14) trinity says:

I read a book recently by Rick Pitino. If any of you are sports fans, you’ll know who I’m talking about. There is a chapter in his book, “Success is a Choice”, that talks about creating good habits in your life. One of them talks about not putting bad things off. Since I am the same way as this article – I put EVERYTHING off like paying bills I don’t want to and leave them for the next month, working out in the morning, etc. etc., I decided to take Rick Pitino’s advice. He says to do whatever you don’t want to do the FIRST THING in your day. That way you have the rest of your day to “relax” and you don’t have it hanging over your head. It’s very true. I have to force myself to do these things, but this actually works. The funny thing is – when it comes to my son, I do everything for him no matter how much I don’t want to do things. I don’t procrastinate with him. So I use that same mentality now when it comes to things for myself or my family that I just don’t want to do.

February 22, 2011 at 10:26 am
(15) Vernie2 says:

I can’t make myself do stuff unless it’s practically an emergency. The longer I have out it off the harder it is to do because of guilt, knowing it’s late, etc.

What I feel is a sort of (imaginary) pressure in my head, like there’s a forcefield between me and it. Anybody else like that or hints?

February 22, 2011 at 9:03 am
(16) Odie says:

Everything I’ve read is like someone has been describing my life perfectly. As a perfectionist as well as a procrastinator I shoot myself in both feet. Wanting everything done a certain way yet it all sits piling up around me. So glad to learn I’m not the only one. Thought the meds were supposed to help with the procrastination. No success there.

February 22, 2011 at 9:34 am
(17) Lyn says:

When I feel like this I try to accomplish just one thing in a day. Whether it’s big or small just one thing makes me feel I’ve done something. Otherwise, nothing would get done. Sometimes, after I’ve done one thing I find I can do more.

February 22, 2011 at 9:35 am
(18) Leslie says:

Y’all have described my life to a t. It ended my marriage.

February 22, 2011 at 9:44 am
(19) Teena says:

I, too, am a chronic procrastinator, recently at age 50, diagnosed with BPI. Unfortunatly, misdiagnosed with depression for 30 years….I abruptly quit my previous $60,000 a year job with no notice during a manic phase, and quickly cycled into deep depression. When I lived alone, I would not go to my mailbox for weeks, just because I didn’t want to see the bills – then when I was forced to go, because the water or elec was cut off, I’d have horrible anxiety for what I’d done…and be forced to correct the problem immediately…with monetary consequences. Did the same with credit card bills and rent….and house cleaning, repairs, etc. I have no concept of doing the things on my to-do list in a timely manner. I am currently on meds and seeing a psyhc and therapist. So far I have fought off the desire to cancel my appts…but that’s about the only thing I’ve accomplished in 2 years. I never ask for help – I just want to be left alone…I do, however, have the capability of caring for my family to a point. I have a 13 yr old and a husband, and I manage to keep them in clean clothes and fed well, but I ignore my own needs. The dishes pile up and I just stare at them like maybe they will jump in the dishwasher by themselves…I have so many dust bunnies on my fans and under my furniture it’s a wonder we can breathe. I just cannot focus long enough to make it happen…I am also tired of living this way, but I can’t even seem to accomplish the tiniest goals that my therapist sets for me – I only leave my house to take my child to school, and to go to therapy. The rest of the time I just sit and pace inside. It’s horrible…and you are not alone!

February 22, 2011 at 9:58 am
(20) cynthia says:

this is my life,perfectionist yet i retreat from reality when i cant do everything i have to do or pay or clean i do nothing…..i do not particiapate in my life…..

February 23, 2011 at 7:26 pm
(21) Laurie Stott says:

@cynthia, your statement ” i do not participate in my life” is one of the most significant desciptions of how I live my life. To have you describe life that way truly hit home with me.

February 22, 2011 at 10:03 am
(22) Sally says:

As the mother of a teenage son, who was diagnosed bi-polar at an early age, I have struggled with this aspect of his life. The apathy and lack of disicpline for his own personal care and that of his room and responsibilities (chores) we have tried to have him do is just overwhelming for me as a parent. It’s not for lack of trying or teaching him to be a part of the family responsibility (cleaning his room, picking up after himself, basic chores, etc…) and at times my patience with the teaching/asking/pleading for him to pick up and do his chores wears heavily on me. I sometimes feel that it is going to be this way the rest of my/his life. As he has gotten older, I have to really check myself to not lable his as lazy…but constantly remind my self that it seems to be a part of his illness and with love and guidance we will get through it.

February 22, 2011 at 10:09 am
(23) debogirl143 says:

Sounds like me. I haven’t really done laundry in months. When my husband was gone for work my older son and wife came over to help clean. I hate this being like this. I wanna scream

February 22, 2011 at 11:03 am
(24) mimsathome says:

Yeah, avoidance behavior is a problem for me too. All of these comments are how it works for me. But every once in a while, I get a spurt of energy to do those things waiting to get done. One trick that works for me is to invite a friend over for dinner. When I do that, I at least scurry around straightening things up and sometimes even clean my house. I’ve been off my Welbutrin for a while and it (avoidance behavior) seems to be worse.

February 22, 2011 at 11:17 am
(25) Joy says:

Wow!! I didn’t know avoidance behavior as it is called existed period, much less be a bipolar symptom. You bet ya… I experience this kind of behavior. My situation is like many of the others who have commented. I put off ALL life’s necessities in life til I can’t stand it any longer (i.e. visits to any drs., house chores, even daily hygiene). I feel my time doing my favorite hobbies and here I’ve been summing it up as just being fat and lazy.

February 22, 2011 at 11:22 am
(26) Kathleen says:

I ALSO have the same issues…was diagnosed w/BP2 last August. Since then, I have also been diagnosed w/Adult ADHD and the doc put me on Vyvanse which is a stimulant. I have found this to be very helpful in prioritizing my list ( I never start ONE day without a list) and getting things done. Of course there are days where my day doesn’t work out like I’ve planned due to unforseen circumstances, but as we all know that could be with anyone – not just we that are diagnosed BP. My doc said that many times BP and ADHD are common dual diagnosis, so you may all want to be tested if you haven’t already. Prior to being diagnosed, I would procrastinate everything – bills would be thrown into my file box (meant to keep it all organized!!), bank accounts suffered b/c I did not watch statements/online website. Famly suffered b/c I did nothing – some days was exhausted and asleep by 7:30-8:00…I was also taking classes that I had to drop due to not doing the work and that prolonged receiving my degree. Proud to say I’ll be graduating in May. At any rate-everyone take care of yourselves! I cried for days when I was diagnosed only to realize that I wasn’t the only one…love this website – all the insight and information is great.

February 22, 2011 at 11:32 am
(27) Elisa says:

I prolong housework too. My 77 year old mother-in-law is here and she pretty much does all the light housework. I manage to do other things– to which I have no recollection of accomplishing anything. Meaning, I stay busy, but can’t recall doing anything productive and wonder how I manage to stay occuplied all day without accomplishing a thing. I’ve discovered that if I write down a ‘purposeful’ vs. to do list and guess-timate how long it should take, I stay focused. I have to create the list the day before–it gives me a reason to wake up on time. I keep a running list for the day writing the time when I wake up, when I finish breakfast, when I yadda, yadda. This way I get things done and actually enjoy crossing a line through a task. Of course, I rarely get inspired to create a list.

February 22, 2011 at 11:33 am
(28) Raven says:

I think this is a Human thing, not a Bipolar thing! Everyone procrastinates :)

February 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm
(29) Karl says:

How amazing! I was beginning to wonder if procrastination would be in the next edition of DSM after reading all of these comments. Asking for a drug for this affliction takes the cake. I wonder how many Billion$ can be made by pushing a drug for this…if it doesn’t exist, well Big Pharma will just create it. And how many of us procrastinate or suffer from “avoidance” disorder…

My guess? Many of us are probably drugged into oblivion and what’s now apparently a syndrome is likely a bundle of serious side effects from taking all these wonder drugs that are imbalancing our brains. Oh, but of course, the solution? Just take another drug or two.

No wonder there is an Epidemic of Mental Illness in this country. We have sold ourselves, sold out, or just plain bought into the marketing of designer dis-eases. Pretty soon there will be a pill for that, not just an app for that.

…Then four more to get rid of the side effects those cause!

Wake up people!!

February 22, 2011 at 12:12 pm
(30) Lara says:

It’s good to know that other people feel the way I do. Weekends when I have to do the garden (read jungle) I sleep in until 11 am and then don’t feel like it anymore.

February 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm
(31) Torie says:

I put things off too, but not because I’m lazy. It’s more because I’m rebellious. When I think of things I need to do like pay bills, I’ll wait till the last minute because I don’t like myself telling me what I need to do – sounds weird! I’m just defiant against myself.

February 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm
(32) stacie says:

I feel these things and have for as long as I can remember. I can’t have anyone over to our house because it is a mess and the thought of actually doing something about it is simply overwhelming to me. I have things that have needed attention for years…and I don’t care enough to do much of anything about it. We REALLY clean (well, as little as we can get away with) when out of town family is coming. The only time we SERIOUSLY is when we have gotten our homes to sell and then we clean and call it “The Great Cleaning of the Coming of the Realy Estate Agent.” Maybe if I try to trick my mind into thinking we are getting ready to move it will kick in.

February 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm
(33) Naomi says:

So now that we know we are all procrastinators and sweep everything important under the carpet, what can we do to light a fire under our asses to get us motivated to tackle important issues and clean our very messy rooms? I’m extremely scattered like most of u.

So what can we do to fix it? Self help positive books bore me. Been there, obsessed over that. There are a range of ‘Secret’ formulas that costs hundreds of dollars will change our lives forever. What these morons fail to realize is that we are bipolar. Most of us have maxed our credit cards and our finances are in shambles and live pay check to paycheck. Who can afford their very expensive ‘secret’ we probably already know?

Whatever! We also couldn’t care less. There are bigger problems in the world than our untidy closets and unkept litter boxes.

Discipline, excitement and incentive I believe is the key to lighting that illusive fire. Now we just have to figure out how to implement it. Start with ur kitchen sink. Polish ur sink. Every day if it’s the only thing u do. It takes two weeks to form a habit. After a while it’ll become a habit. Once it’s a habit. Start another. Then u will have two habit that happen automatically. You will have a polished kitchen sink and a tidy closet. Every two weeks form a new habit.
Write a blog about it. Challenge urself publicly to form a new habit every two weeks.

Talking about discipline, did u know scientist say that it takes 10 000 hours to perfect ones craft. So if u are an artist and paint, it takes 3hrs a day for ten years to become completely proficient as a painter.

February 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm
(34) hope says:

Ah… the clean your sink then add routines flylady.net approach. I thoroughly recommend it. She know how to mix in a little fun with the chores and she’s free:-)

February 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm
(35) Naomi says:

Set three hours a day aside to perfect ur craft and just do it. Once discipline can multiply to two and three and more.

Just get up and do it. Google those who have achieved their goals and get inspired to make it happen for u. If THEY can, so Can u. We are all writers of our own story. We can direct it any way we want. Just get up and do it.
Setting goals and dates to achieve that goal really works. Especially when u do it publicly on a blog. One day at a time. One habit at a time.

February 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm
(36) Suzy says:

I’ve been procrastinating since I was a little girl! I would put off,
so many important chores, etc, that it started to affect me in a really negative way. As I got older I developed Agoraphobia, which as most people know, is being fearful of the public. Some people get it so badly that they can’t leave the house. That’s how I was. I couldn’t leave the house. I would have a hard time just checking the mailbox! However I went on anti-depressants,
and it must have worked deep inside my brain, b/c suddenly I was able to go out in public again – to a certain point. I still have
Social Anxiety Disorder, which is not as bad, but still it’s not great!

February 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm
(37) Tina says:

I to find myself putting things off. I know what I must do daily but I have no desire to do it. Of course this makes my husband very upset and we usually end up in a screaming match…or rather he screams and I emotionally shut down. I never really thought of it being a problem, but after reading this post I am going to talk to my counselor about it. And I return to work in the next three weeks so I really need to address this issue. Thanks for the posts.

February 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm
(38) Norma says:

Me too. It drags me down and lowers my self esteem. Why doesn’t the medicine help with this?

February 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm
(39) Peggy says:

First, I’d like to say, thank all of you, for sharing this, and your honesty! I struggle with all these issues. I used to make lists and I don’t even do that anymore, (its overwhelming to see all the things I needed to do, and didn’t). The biggest difficulty is the guilt I battle back and forth with, because my husband is such an organized person. He is wonderfully understanding, and helps me a lot, however. Anyway, I think that my Bipolar illness probably contributed to my “uncompleted tasks, why try?” concept, and it helps me to know, I’m not alone. As I’m sure, you all, like myself, used to have energy and drive to
perform even daily tasks, but since I was diagnosed in 1998, I have battled, emotionally & physically with the routine aspects of basic daily living. I have everything everywhere in my house, piles of books, papers, clothes, etc. My side of the bed looks like a disaster area, my husbands, neat (until I mess his up too, not intentionally however.) Anyway, thank you for sharing your struggles with these issues, and lets all strive to be kinder and more understanding of ourselves. Literally, if I gather the trash throughout the house, wash a load of laundry (with still like 4 loads left to do) and get a shower once a week, its a huge accomplishment. Some days, its a huge step, just to get out of bed for a few hours.

February 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm
(40) clara says:

Omg you could be talking to me. I think procoastinating is an issue people with mental illness. Lists do not work for me either. I find that on the days I do one of those things I don’t like I feel so much better about myself. I would not do something than torture myself for not doing it. Could it be a sign of depression??? My pdoc readjusted my meds that seemed to help me out a lot. I know the feeling when everything overwhelms you and you just can’t do certain things because of it. Lots of luck to you all


February 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm
(41) Rita says:

I do the same thing.I have trouble getting things done around my house,i put off anything i can.When i become hypomanic,i tackle everything and wonder why i put it off! I thought i was the only one who did this!

February 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm
(42) molly says:

wow.This is the story of my life. Whether it’s dishes,laundry,picking up dog poop, or going out with friends- I am the master of avoidance.Leaves me feeling useless and unproductive but I just can’t help it!

February 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm
(43) Jen says:

OMG, another one of “me” is out there…….I thought I was the only one…

February 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm
(44) jrsh says:

I found myself in a little of each of the above posts.
Dx with depression.
So.. what do I do now?
Pls help

February 22, 2011 at 11:29 pm
(45) Paula says:

I am so glad I found some other people’s stories. I’m not alone. My problem is that I have an all or nothing mentality. If I can’t do it perfectly or in the time span I have, then I don’t do it at all.
Sometimes, on my more energetic periods, I start cleaning up and organizing one specific
thing or one specific room, but as I’m cleaning, I come across other things that need to be done and I start on them. During this whole time, I can’t sit down because I am trying to get so much done. But – when I finally collapse that night, I have 10 projects, none of which are quite finished. The next day, I am in a different mood and none of it matters. Augh!

February 22, 2011 at 11:36 pm
(46) Marcela says:

I don’t know what to say, everyday I realized that been polar is such a difficult thing to deal with. I also have this lazyness I couldn’t expline. How can I deal with it…I’m like a cat…walking around the mouse..but never get it….I feel so guilty and useless it hurts

February 23, 2011 at 3:18 am
(47) LuLu says:

Thanks, guys, for all these comments. It’s ALWAYS reassuring to know when we are not alone in our various compulsions (!) and weirdnesses (!). :-) I appreciate you all.

February 23, 2011 at 9:49 am
(48) notasyoungguy says:

Mine is a world of always having more on my plate than I have the time or capability of handling. Unfortunately, I neglect the most important things in life, for the smallest details of things to be just right. By the time I finish something, numerous other important things have greater need of attention.
This is true in my family, social (if you want to call it social) life, personal interests and in my vocation. Plus, trying to remember to simply make a list is a huge task. I have been behind for years….. I need 36 hours in a day, and no sleep, then I a can catch up, if I could start my list.

February 23, 2011 at 11:11 am
(49) kathy says:

I can understand this I just thought I was being lazy however now that I saw this I realize that I it’s my bipolar
kicking in this is the first I hearf of this

February 23, 2011 at 11:33 am
(50) Kathleen says:

Cynthia, you said ” I do not participate in my life “. Thank you!!! Even though it is not a good thing, I am glad that I have a way to describe it now.

On another note, I was recently diagnosed as having ADD and NOT bipolar disorder at all ( I Do have depression and anxiety). But I also read that they often coexist. ( on aDDitudemag.com ) It sounds like many people posting may want to discuss this possibility with their docs.

I have been trying to be an organized person for years and just found this book that has great tips that aren’t the same old-same old. It’s called ADD-Friendly ways to Organize your Life by Judith Kolberg & Kathleen Nadeau, PH.D. Maybe this would help someone who isn’t helped by standard ways of organizing even if they don’t have ADD. It addresses the mental processes of organizing and motivation, not just where to put your socks.

My best to everyone,

February 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm
(51) BlueOctober7 says:

I consider myself the queen of procrastination!! I have sticky notes all over the office and at home yet all I ever seem to accomplish with them is moving them, re-writing them or feeling guilty because I can’t force myself to do much of anything. This has always been how I am – before and after meds. Nothing seems to motivate me.

February 23, 2011 at 6:46 pm
(52) mj says:

My marriage has been under constant strain because of this. I’m so surprised so many people have the same experience. However, mine doesn’t seem any worse or any better with drugs. (im currently on zoloft). I always seem more motivated when I’m working outside the home and am a lot more organised and in periods of hypermania wher I take on too much. But I change jobs often and am at home for long periods in between. My husband and I constantly argue about this and I’m worried I have taught the kids really bad habits too. The only thing that has worked for me is to follow some rules which I got from flylady.net and I try and do a at least a few basic things each day. I have learnt to break tasks into 15 minutes at a time. Fly ladys motto this year is “Go for seven in 2011″ or words to that effect where you can even break things into seven minutes. And I fall off the plan a lot of days but I just start again.
What choice do I have?

February 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm
(53) Stacey says:

Avoidance Behavior interesting makes sense and I believe others have it as well. Yes I fall into that I must say my life has changed immensely since taking psych meds and being placed on disability in 2008. At first it was a shock I was so maniac most of the time they called me the tasmanian devil… yikes not good. Now I feel more balanced but yet more tired and some days worse than others it is true with support of friends and family helps alot. I write notes, place items on calendars

February 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm
(54) Stacey says:

oops think my email was sent too soon….I remind myself of all the important tasks that need to be done each day and week then I break them up. Instead of being maniac and doing it all in one day to bring yourself to exhaustian and break down I take small little steps each day to do one thing at a time until it is completed. It can be difficult to stay focused I have Bipolar I with some ADD, OCD, PSTD, PMDD and BDD the latest one. My meds and therapy are helping alot but it is a struggle and it is a journey to recovery to living a healthy happy life. I believe we can all have it. I realize I do not have to be superwoman or superman I think society puts so much emphasis on what we should be doing all the time and for me it is too much for my brain to handle. I prefer simplicity and quality find interests and hobbies are awesome I have been doing yoga and belly dancing. I read especially the bible to get my spiritual food and have been exploring all areas of interest. Right now it is challenging I am not living in the best environment so I am in a crisis somewhat trying to find a new place close to my family. I pray I will make further improvements when I get there but it is hard to live out of boxes and garbage bags but hey it isn’t that bad it is kinda funny when you know which bag as what and they aren’t marked… These days things have been slower I have been getting physically sick a never ending flu and mold problem from my last room and board but I try so hard to keep up with my exercise and each little task it keeps me going and I have hope for the future. I do not push too hard anymore I give myself grace… I forgive myself and I am really learning to love myself this mental illness is what we have but not who we are. I also have been asking for help even if it is not there. :)

February 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm
(55) Luella says:

I am so glad that you have shared this as I always thought I was alone in this.
I have kids and our house is in such a state I don’t allow them to have friends over. I try to tackle the things that need to be done, but never get very far.
I HATE living like this, but I really don’t know how to fix it. My mom has tried for years to help, but the problem just keeps coming back.
If anyone has suggestions on how to deal with this, I would be ever grateful if you would share it with us.

February 23, 2011 at 10:21 pm
(56) MichelleP12 says:

This is SO me!!!! There was one little part of my job that I didn’t do for FOUR YEARS! I finally decided to tackle it and it wasn’t so bad. So why did I not do it at all for so long? I was for some reason afraid of it. They let me go shortly after that anyway.

Even as I write this, I have a project I am supposed to be working on and it won’t be too bad, just hand lettering 27 invitations and envelopes. Have done 2 invites only. But I took care of so much other stuff that I put off from last month!

Also I didn’t wash my dishes at one time in my life for TWO YEARS. I kept confessing it and the priest said to take things one tiny step at a time, but I couldn’t even seem to do that. I finally just threw my plates out.

February 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm
(57) Darlene says:

My method of handling “avoidance behavior”? Find that “little window” of time where you actually have the energy to perform some of the tasks you’ve been putting off. It may be 2 hours…for me it’s about 7am to 9am on most days. Other days it’s about 6:00 am to 8am. Some days you may not have ANY energetic time. I’ve had days where I couldn’t muster up the strength to shower or spent hours debating whether I should get out of bed to brush my teeth. Take it one day at a time.

February 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm
(58) diane says:

I too am like this. I explained this to my pysch dr and he put me on a small dose of adderal to get my day started. I found I could do a couple of things in the morning and a few more throughout the day. It has really helped me a lot.

February 26, 2011 at 4:22 am
(59) Leslie says:

My avoidance is UNREAL. I lost MY HOUSE because of the anxiety of opening mail, getting $ from the bank, ANYTHING I HAD TO DO MADE ME ANXIOUS…I had TWO BOXES of unopened mail in my car the last year I was able to work. There I was, a Special Ed teacher, supposedly preparing my students to function in the “real world” and I was unable to do so myself. It is still HIDEOUS.

February 26, 2011 at 5:39 am
(60) suzanne says:

yeh…i hear you all…it’s almost march and the dogs halloween costume is still on the floor (and my poor dog died 3 months ago) and all my christmas things are up.

i’m blessed to have a friend who used to be my therapist. when i let her, she will come over to my house and will help me organize and prioritize and will help me with calling creditors and pushing myself.

i’ve always wondered if this was all part of some functioning of the brain and whether there are meds to help or meds that may contribute. all i know is that it’s getting worse.

lamictal lithium wellbutrin klonopin trazadone and lissinopril for high blood pressure

March 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm
(61) MichelleP12 says:

I know how it is to lose a beloved dog…I’ve lost three. My heart goes out to you. Even to this day, 4 years after I lost my last dog, I can’t even hear the Rainbow Bridge poem without crying. I gave up custody of my newest dog (my big baby) when I moved to a different city in with my parents, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and cry. This only adds to the overwhelming feeling, but somehow we have to find a way to go on.

It seems with all of us here, that everything takes on an overwhelming magnification, as far as organization and bill-paying and such. I can’t tell you how many times my bank account was overdrawn. The bank finally closed my account and I haven’t had an account since. I have a disability pending (for cluster headaches, as they don’t think my mental issues deserve a disability, even though EVERY one of the counselors they’ve sent me to say I deserve it). So Mom helps me with gas money and food stamps help me buy food. Even with a disability, I’ll have difficulty managing money like before. Here with Mom (who’s such a neat person, I call her “June Cleaver on Steroids”) I have a very structured life. Structure is great for us bipolars. Also at my NAMI, the nurse who is our facilitator of the meetings, says this avoidance behavior is very typical for people with mental illness and one of the best ways to deal with it is to provide a deadline. When I was working on the invitations, I knew that my friend wanted people to RSVP by March 10, so to me I had to have them done by March 1 or so. I kept pushing myself and overnighted them to her on the 1st.

February 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm
(62) Mimi of Six says:

Wow is all I can say. I even blame this on all my physical pains too. Just give me an excuse I can make it fit my life. I have to wake up hurry get what I can done. Then by 1:00pm it is all over. If I cook it has to be before this and just warm up for supper. What is so hard about putting a frozen meal in the oven and opening a couple cans of beans?? But it is. Then some things I can not stand for it to be out of order. I don’t get it. I am trying the one day at a time just make progress. Of course I am trying to pray and meditate more. I have even found reason not to pray…glad God still loves us and knows our heart. Oh just one more, I exercise by watch them on TV.

February 27, 2011 at 9:01 pm
(63) Rockybetta says:

As all of the other members here, I have been like this since I was a kid and I’m 54 now. I could never tell my son to straighten his room when mine looked worse. When I feel good, I will be running around getting all these things done and at the end of the day, nothing has been crossed off my list! I have procrastinated on reading my books on how to stop procrastinating (also, getting rid of clutter. Even if I do straighten up, there’s stuff back on the desk the next day.) Everything always feels so overwhelming to so I just end up not doing it. And it doesn’t go away by itself!

February 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm
(64) Juan says:

Hi there, same here. I sometimes can’t get out of bed in time and I just don’t want to take a shower! I arrive at work unshaved and in a mess. My desk piles up junk very quickly and I leave springcleaning my room till the dustbunnies fight for space! But when I’m manic, (I use my medicine so it’s mostly not out of control) everything get’s done. It’s the same with tasks at work as well, the work I don’t want to do just lies in my tray for months, and gets done only when I can’t put it off any longer, usually when my boss can’t wait any longer for it. Which obviously does not look good.
What I would like to know is why? Is this the other side; being depressed? Iv’e never come across the term ‘avoidance behaviour’ before when reading up on bp. Guess now I now know what it is as it explains a part of myself that I always feld ashamed about, same as you Marcela.
Since we all have this in common, and there are solutions for most of the other problems/symptoms we share, there has to be an answer and solution for this!

February 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm
(65) Jennifer says:

I thought I was the only one doing this…. reading this has givin me comfort to know that all of the other people are the same a me.

March 1, 2011 at 9:34 am
(66) Luella says:

While I have found it comforting to note that there are many others suffering in the same way as I am in regards to procrastination and being able to do things and organize things, I am very disheartened to see a lack of suggestions for things that have helped people in this situation.

Are we doomed to live this way forever? I for one would like to have a nice tidy house–one to be proud of, but I am at a total loss on how to achieve it with this aversion I seem to have.

Anyone have any ideas?

March 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm
(67) BrettG says:

I think we all have to be careful about labeling something a symptom of bipolar, or just a typical human trait. I know LOTS of people like this who are not bipolar but just avoid certain tasks because they don’t like doing them for a certain reason.

If the problem has a severe negative effect on our lives, I would say perhaps it is illness-related. Otherwise, I’m not so sure.

March 16, 2011 at 10:32 am
(68) caz leitch says:

Hi Brett! Fully appreciate what you are trying to say there!

I don’t think most people here are trying to say that avoidance is ONLY a bipolar symptom.
But avoidance IS a big symptom in our bipolar lives
This can be devastating for us and has a huge impact on both the sufferer and the people in their lives…..
I think the people on here are just wanting to express their worries, fears and concerns, because the topic is about Bipolar and as far as i know, the majority of us on here have bipolar. We are just trying to connect with each other and know we aren’t alone.
And speaking of avoidance………i better go! Was supposed to be researching something that may help with my organisational skills! lol. :-)

March 16, 2011 at 11:05 am
(69) BrettG says:


Point well taken! Thanks for taking the time to reply. And I know I tend to avoid, and I am learning to push myself to avoid avoiding :) . I just want us all to empower ourselves as much as possible by seeing whatever we can as habits instead of symptoms. Maybe the word symptoms scares me. To me, habits are changeable via practice and therapy. Symptoms feels like we are not at the wheel, and I REALLY hate that feeling. But this is so subjective and I appreciate all viewpoints.

March 16, 2011 at 9:49 am
(70) caz leitch says:

Yep! That’s me too everyone! I write to-do lists each day (sometimes i get distracted and forget to write one), but i have to keep in mind that my 9 year old daughter with autism may get in the way with some of the things i mean to do….lol!
Can you imagine a house with 1 bipolar woman and 1 kid with autism?? It gets quite decorative at the best of times! But somehow i manage…thanks to my friends who threaten to come over and visit (only way to make me move fast on my more positive days, to clean up) and a quote that for some reason really grabbed my attention! I stuck it on the computer so that i can see it everytime i procrastinate!

I also set the oven alarm to time myself for each room. If time runs out, i stop and go onto the next room regardless of what is left to be done! The house looks a little tidier that way! Of course, that really doesn’t work during school holidays…. I think my daughter has her own timer going for each room to see how quickly she can mess it up!

There will be days when i’m way too down to do much more than sit at the computer and hide in internet games, but the better days i manage to get some things done and feel proud of myself.
My next challenge……….organising the rest of my life….just managed to get a job and start a tafe course at the same time! Plus my daughter has just been diagnosed with Ross river fever and i’m waiting on blood tests to see if i have it too. lol.

I’m off to research tips on how to organise all of this….bet i will find ideas in an add/adhd website….it’s where my other ideas on house cleaning came from! :-)

March 18, 2011 at 11:37 am
(71) Caz Leitch says:

Hi again Brett! I like what you said
‘habits instead of symptoms’…….It does seem to be a habit we develop, now that i stop to think about it. A lot of it starts from childhood i’m guessing?…….things happen to us and we begin to learn to avoid things, saving us from fear and / or embarrassment and the sense of failure. As we get older, we become so good at it, that it just comes naturally and we start to avoid anything that seems too difficult to deal with! We just have to somehow change that habit with, like you said, practice and therapy. Also time..lol.
p.s Thanks for sharing that! That was a good eye opener!

April 2, 2011 at 4:27 am
(72) kauto says:

I have these periods in which I am obsessive to get the work done regardless of what it is and I would go through my list tirelessly. Than swing into periods in which I do not want to lift my finger. I think it is all to do with concentration and the rewards. If I see there is a reward at the end of getting the list done, I would get it done. Funny, I seem to be no different from Pavlov’s dogs.

October 3, 2011 at 12:35 am
(73) swirlgirl says:

Yes, I do the avoidance…I have paperwork that I always say I will get under control..then of course I only do…if I have to find some legal or important paperwork.. THEN STRESSES THE TARNATION OUT OF ME! then when I find it…I just put everything back as it was..and do not worry or do anything about it…til I need something again..AND GO IN PANIC MODE AGAIN!

I have done somewhat to control it…shredding and getting rid of old stuff, but if important just put it all in whatever notebook, box, basket etc.

I do this with putting away clean laundry..let it pile up on the floor, letting dishes sit for days in the sink…not mopping, sweeping etc…on a regulard basis….like NORMAL people do??

I do believe it is a system of my bi-polar, but becomes a habit and laziness too…don’t ya just get so tired and sleepy even thinking about doing it all…yeah…just too much…my eyes are getting droopy…have to take a nap…yeah..that will solve it all for right now…..til later…

December 30, 2012 at 10:01 am
(74) merigoround says:

Yes, I am a chronic procrastinator. I let things most slide until I am overwhelmed. When I am going through a depressed episode, it gets worse even to the point that hygiene (showers, changing out of PJ’s) tend to slide. Right now I am going through some medication adjustment and have been rapid cycling. One day feeling energetic, 10 feet tall and bullet proof with all my Spidy-senses enhanced and the next a very sad or emotionless ghost going through only the very necessary motions. I like the comment # 34 from Hope regarding FlyLady.net, I have been trying to follow her baby steps and it helps on those down and out days.

February 12, 2013 at 8:17 am
(75) Rhiana says:

I am sitting here crying while reading all of these posts. It’s because I realize that I’m not alone. I’m not the only one that’s like this. Thank you all for sharing and helping me to see that there is still hope for me.

February 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm
(76) Maine-iac says:

I literally screamed right before I opened this email! I am all of you above and I feel like I am drowning. My pdoc gave me Adderall for ADHD- I kept saying it didn’t work, so she kept upping my dose. Now I’m out and I just haven’t called her back to make an appointment. Haven’t seen my therapist in 2 years because I can’t make the call. I’m unorganized, disorganized, embarrassed and overwhelmed. I hate letting my kids have friends over because I’m embarrassed by our house. I feel like I’m living a lie. Some of my longtime friends have never even stepped foot in my house- because I’m too embarrassed. I’ve try the whole Fly Lady (cleaning zones in 15 minute spurts, etc.)- I started that when my oldest was in preschool- he is now 16. When I get manic- I kick into high gear and all looks great for a day or 2. That’s all I can manage. I wish we could all start a support group. Maybe we could motivate each other. Oh, ya, I haven’t had a physical in several years- because I keep wanting to lose weight- but haven’t started exercising yet!

February 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm
(77) artbug says:

I am in the same place as all of you. I spent most of my life hearing that I was lazy; my report cards said Bright but does not apply herself, daydreams in class–etc. I am NOT LAZY! I have worked very hard on things that are important to me. I have also been evicted because I couldn’t keep the place clean.About to be evicted again, I think: because I put off vacuuming & scrubbing the toilet & taking out the trash & dumping the litter boxes. The advice I get? Get rid of the cats!!(lol) like that’s the only problem. I have asked for help too, without much success. I kind of fell between the categories–I am lucid, not suicidal, not abused–just ill. I have been diagnosed with bipolar2, ADHD, anxiety disorders, a touch of OCD. It took 40+ years to get that diagnosis. Now menopause has thrown a wrench in the works too..I am totally miserable, completely broke, can’t.accomplish anything even to save my own butt. Different meds?.Different shrink? Bo Burnham says: I hate my life, and it hates me back.

February 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm
(78) Rebecca says:

I have the same problem. My house is an embarrassing wreck and I really have no one to turn to for help. I have a special needs son who has bipolar and aspergers, so I am completely overwhelmed. I also have custody of my niece and she may be special needs too. People just don’t get it. I feel bad for my partner. She works all day, but does what she can on the weekends. I know it has to be difficult for her. I have been fighting fatigue and depression for several years now, but I’m not really doing any better. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m tired of existing like this.

February 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm
(79) Pamel says:

Me too, to all of the above. I never understood why till I was diagnosed with BP a few years ago when I was 52. I was always just called a slob or told I was lazy. Most of my time is spent alone now. But that’s OK it works for me.

February 13, 2013 at 3:30 am
(80) Michael says:

I do this and can’t seem to get a handle on it………I even dream about the things that I know I should be taking care of,but still can’t seem to man-up and JUST DO IT.Any suggestions short of taking medications and possibly making matters worse………..anyone??

February 13, 2013 at 8:37 pm
(81) Sarah Taylor says:

I don’t know if this works for anyone else but when my house needs to be cleaned but I am overwhelmed I have friends who understand. They come over and help me figure out where to start and if I get overwhelmed they help me through it. I wish they could come every week!!

February 15, 2013 at 5:04 pm
(82) Phillybb says:

Ha. I have too much to add and i would surely end up blathering on and on.
I’m 51, male, bp diagnosis in 2009. I have seen a counselor, recommended by my doctor recently. I have seen him twice in a month or two. I’m not sure he is as capable as i’d like.
The second time saw asked me “what do you REALLY want?”
I said” to be able to live in a clean, organized house.”
he said ” is that important to you?”
I said” yes!”
he said” is it that important to you?”
I said “YES! its that important to me!!!”
he said ” Why is it that important?’
I was so incensed that all I sounded like was blah, blah, blah
I was disappointed. Yeah Its a life goal now.
Here is what i finally wrangled out of him by the end of the session:
He said ” Well, how u keep your house says a lot about how your mind keeps house.”
Thank-you very much doctor. Finally…
Something with some meat on it.

February 16, 2013 at 1:50 pm
(83) Aly says:

I have avoided things for many years. But in order to keep my life more simple I try to overcome these things in other ways. I find it difficult to open my mail. Bills are important so I usually auto pay which so far is the best method for me. Other bills I do not auto pay but I go on the website and pay or call on the phone and pay. I avoid my bank account too but it is rarely a problem. Its usually necessary to check it at some point but I still have to struggle for several days until I can check it. Also if my phone rings sometimes it is a struggle and I don’t answer it unless it is my immediate family or a local number. This can be difficult especially since i own a small business. If it is spam messages I block them to prevent further calls. I return calls and emails to clients for some reason having stuff automatically forward to my cell phone is easier. I have difficulty with the blinking light on answering machine and may look at it with knots in my stomach for some time before I can do what I need to do. I just try to work around it.

February 17, 2013 at 10:40 am
(84) Morgan says:

So THAT’S where my table went!

Avoidance is my middle name. It happens most the time, to the point of not wanting/allowing company. It’s embarrassing, My place is not dirty, just terribly disorganized. It must be dusty, but I’m in denial about that.

It isn’t laziness, but feelings of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. It’s usually the kitchen, and once that’s done I feel I’ve done my work for that day….you can imagine the cycle here. The kitchen always needs attention!

Any volunteers to help me go through a one foot pile of mail & papers?

Thank you, Phillybb (#82) with the thought I’ve considered for a long time – “..How you keep your house says a lot about how your mind keeps house.”

February 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm
(85) Marcia Purse / Bipolar Disorder Guide says:

Aly, when I read your comment I thought I had written it myself. I have to use auto-pay for my recurring bills and HATE to press the blinking red light on my phone (and sometimes that causes big problems). Recently I went over a month without opening postal mail. BIG problems there, too.

April 9, 2013 at 11:14 pm
(86) Cinisniff says:

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September 5, 2013 at 6:06 am
(87) artbug says:

It’s just me again. Still so very hard to accomplish the most basic tasks: got evicted (because of 5 much-loved kitties) and had to stay with my boyfriend since April. Kitties have been in kennel all this time, miss them so much! Can’t have them with me–we are renting. The cats are part of what keeps me going; without them i have a huge hole in the middle of my better self. Need to find a place to live (3 months ago!) and can’t do it. Need to find a loan to pay kennel bill, can’t do that either. My mom can’t live alone anymore, we need a mortgage to get a house–i’m terrified towalk into the bank! My driver’s license expired over a year ago, the car registration ran out in july, I’ve needed a dr.appt for months for a really bad sinus infection–should i even go on?? is it any wonder i feel like a total screw-up?? A reasonably intelligent 56-year-old woman should be able to renew her driver’s license on time, yes? and of course, most of the world doesn’t give a s–t if you have bipolar or adhd or anxiety or any other disorder, why can’t you do what’s expected of you? (Can you tell I’m having a BAD week??)

September 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm
(88) Brenda says:

Jokes on me! I had posted that my roof had been fixed and was no longer leaking. We had a monsoon is there not long ago! This is one time that the procrastination saved me! I hadn’t started the remodeling in there so it only made what was already a mess worse. Never thought my procrastination would come in handy! LOL! Now, we think that it is finally fixed. Now the big question…can I use my procrastination to save myself again. “Honey, what if it leaks again?” LOL!

November 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm
(89) bauchmuskeltraining says:

Excellent article. I am dealing with a few of these issues as well..

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