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Do You Feel Forced to Multitask By Your Bipolar Brain?

May 30, 2013 Natasha Tracy

There is something I have noticed about my busy bipolar brain. I’ve noticed that it seems obsessed with multitasking. It almost seems to not allow me to do one thing at once. If I sit down to watch TV, for example, I can’t stop myself from also picking up my computer or playing a game on my cell phone. When I sit down to write an article, I have to constantly also be checking in on my social media at the same time. People always wonder how I can be everywhere at once. That’s easy. I’m everywhere at once because my brain is everywhere at once.

Multitasking is Bad?

And it’s funny because people seem to suggest that multitasking is “bad.” There is this notion that you can only do something well if you’re only doing that one thing at a time. And this does make sense. The idea is that you lose a certain amount of concentration and memory when you switch tasks, which is true. My brain just seems to be fast enough to compensate for that.

I’m not suggesting that doing one thing at a time is bad and I’m not suggesting that doing one thing at a time can’t produce better results for some, what I’m suggesting is that, for me, multitasking seems to be a way of life.

I’m also not suggesting that there aren’t downsides to this way of thinking. (Listen to the audio for more.)

Multitasking in Life

In addition to multitasking when I’m working or when I’m lounging, I tend to multitask around the house too. I don’t just do laundry. I do laundry, clean the kitchen and check the mail, doing a bit of each task at a time and then rapidly switching. This isn’t the best way of going about things, I admit, as I can forget what I’m doing half-way through or forget one of the tasks that I’m performing, but it just seems like something my brain forces me to do.

A Super-Fast Brain

And I think part of it is having a really fast brain. I can bang out an article in minutes – as fast as my fingers can move – because that’s how fast my brain thinks and that’s how I can make a living as a writer. That’s how I can produce pages and pages of contents every week. I’m not saying it’s the most fun thing in the world, I’m just saying that my bipolar brain allows for it.

So my question to all the bipolar folks out there: is this just me, or do you feel forced to multitask through your bipolar brain too?

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2013, May 30). Do You Feel Forced to Multitask By Your Bipolar Brain?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/05/forced-multitask-bipolar-brain



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, Instagram and Facebook.

TonyDahlin
says:
May, 6 2018 at 10:36 am
I have been secretly multitasking for years. I was advised not to disclose my IQ or my ability to multitask
Francisco
says:
January, 14 2018 at 3:40 am
I'm exactly the same. I have the need/urge to try to be productive all the time, whether it's watching TV and reading a book or something else. I like it but sometimes, I get too restless when I'm just doing one thing at a time
Nayab
says:
October, 27 2016 at 7:14 am
This is relatable. I like open a 10 different tabs and try to watch a movie and listen to music at the same time (obviously I can't do that) and it's just messed up. The issue it I can't get ANYTHING done, and it get me real frustrated. Sometimes comes handy, when I am texting and working on an article and listening to music all at the same time, but most of the times it just leaves me outright frustrated. And sometimes when I am writing my fingers just couldn't type fast enough. Frustrating again!
sandracobban
says:
November, 29 2013 at 4:53 am
Reread some of the comments like usual..
Re the loud music: agreed I find very helpful,helps me focus..
Re the cannabis comment: I no longer do any drugs,but in Canada there is a medical
Marijuana pill unsure exactly of name...think starts with an S ... Symetrel..
It is a capsule,it is a mood stabilizer,legal & all.
I don't know where your from ..but u could see if it's available.
Least it's legal cannabis,I've been on it.
Made me really giddy & silly so wasn't right for me but ...why not give it a go?
Won't know unless u ask,right???
Ciao,stay well:-)
sandracobban
says:
November, 29 2013 at 4:37 am
Nooooo!
Natasha,it's sooo not just you!
Notice,I will be on the computer while trying to wash dishes,or making lists
( I've OCD too)
While making a meal..it is our brains..I feel it physically...
Like,it's really difficult to SAY STOP!!
My workers trying to teach me,I'm trying,but it's really really hard to do.
Or the telly is on,while I'm writing online etc....
My goal NY is to ONE task AT a TIME.
Sheesh.....
My worker has even advised me when I get frazzled to do one job,SIT..OR best LIE DOWN few mins.
Then do the other thing I was planning on finishing..
Ps YES as a writer,my FINGERS FLY like IM on COLOMBIAN marching powder!!!
OLD old dead habit,,,,,,no comment regarding....
Undilutedspirit
says:
November, 28 2013 at 3:37 pm
Laughed out Loud when I saw this photo.. I wish I could send you a photo of my post-it covered wall above my computer.
I am so grateful for my multitasking bipolar brain.. sure, i can over do it/ overextend sometimes.. my girlfriend calls it the "Manic advantage".. now that I'm getting older (46) its easier for me to prioritize tasks.. I feel like i can relax or let the moment "pass"..I finally realized my 60% is most people's 110%.
Shannon
says:
November, 27 2013 at 2:35 pm
Every word that you write rings so true to me. Thank you so much for this.
Legina
says:
September, 7 2013 at 9:15 am
The only way my brain works like that is when I am manic. I love those days (at least in the beginning).
jsoltys
says:
August, 20 2013 at 3:53 pm
SAME HERE! I checked facebook 3 times while reading this article. I have such a busy brain it can be very productive, but also a curse. I, too, can bang out an article quickly... but, then I spend an obscene amount of time proof-reading it. Like, I have zero faith in my writing skills. I don't know how to NOT multi-task. Blessing & a curse, for sure!
zee
says:
August, 15 2013 at 9:46 am
tip: if u want to be really focused, get something done that would require the strength of thor to not get bored out of your skull and distract yourself? earphones with really loud music always helps me
zee
says:
August, 15 2013 at 9:43 am
without a doubt you are not alone. and having read this i now realise that i am not alone either. i am reading this article, watching tv, searching something arb on my phone and have a magazine lying open on my lap. convinced?
Troy
says:
June, 14 2013 at 6:08 pm
I am the same way and I find sometimes it is good and sometimes it is frustrating. Sometimes my mind will get going on so many tasks that they either all wont get finished or the will not be done completely or thoroughly.
Ptera
says:
June, 10 2013 at 3:45 pm
Hi,
I'm kind of a multitasker but more like a multiple thinker with traffic always going and always distracting me BUT then at other times I am uber-focused and unable to redirect myself from a task or thought track. When I need to focus I must have music on in my office - loud and fast. And I know that it pisses my colleagues off so I close the door and go hard. I haven't been diagnosed but realise I have issues - get really manic and obsessive around the same time (s) every year. My wife and kids can see me brewing but I usually don't. Then I explode and descend into darkness. My brother is currently hospitalised - but I am nowhere near as bad. Maybe I am actually not even bipolar - just out of control sometimes. My biggest terror is being locked away. Anyway - just found this blog and am trying to get my head together - ha ha a losing battle.
Thanks for your insights. I was wondering if my thought process was normal and think that I found my answer.
Cheers Ptera
ps - do you know of any research about cannabis and bipolar. I find that getting baked helps me to reduce speed in my head and sometimes I see and experience amazing lucidity. GP says it is not good but he sees NO benefit to cannabis even though it has acknowledged medicinal properties.
sorry for raving - a bit nervous.
I also wonder if my version of reality is REALLY inconsistent/non-commensurate with normality. Are bipolar people misfits? I often speak out of turn or loudly (apparently) but I am typically confident and very competent - hence why I am in management. But I don't make friends easily and am more of a loner. Ha - this has become a confession page.
Sorry again
Signing out.
Hanli
says:
June, 9 2013 at 7:52 am
I have the same experience. I do many things at the same time.Watching TV, writing, looking things up on websites, in-between talking and playing with dogs & cat & people and more. Definitely the bipolar brain. And in my art and crafts and can never stay to just one thing or medium. I hop around between one thing to the next! Its a wonder I finished my book!
Amy
says:
June, 8 2013 at 10:02 am
I am a serious multitasker. If I don't have several things to do at once, I don't know what to do with myself. Right now I transferring data from one computer to another. Surfing on another computer. Texting on my iPhone and watching a baseball game. And I'm considering doing laundry. I do not have ADHD. It is definitely my Bipolar disorder.
Joanna
says:
June, 7 2013 at 2:31 am
I am definitely a multitasker, I cant sit and watch a program on tv without being on my phone playing games. It is more obvious at work, I'm on my phone, on the internet and doing my work all at the same time, and to the outsider it may look like I am skiving but i never miss deadlines.

I assumed I just have a low attention span but your article has made me realise it is more about multitasking than distractions.

I find loud music helps me concerntrate on one task at a time when needed!
Samella Reed
says:
June, 5 2013 at 4:25 pm
While reading this I had a huge, "OMG someone is the same way that I am". I was recently diagnosed with bipolar I, and I have been struggling with accepting my diagnosis. Like yourself I never stop multi tasking and I have a very quick mind. With this I have always done very well in school and have a successful career.

But I get questioned all the time how I perform if I am always doing so many things at once. I also speak very very quickly. I am in sales and have learned to curtail it a bit, but I speak insanely fast. I can also read and comprehend at remarkable speeds. I have always felt alone and weird about it, but its so wonderful hearing that many others who are bipolar as well are similar.

I recently went through training for my job and my trainer was mad at me for doodling while he was speaking. I tried to explain that I am listening even more intently when I do this. I have done better than anyone else there, and have better grasp for the knowledge.

Thanks for sharing. I love knowing that I am not alone, because with this mental illness I feel a lone a lot. I feel damaged and broken, and that I am at a disadvantage in life. I know that isn't true.
Tina
says:
June, 3 2013 at 2:29 pm
I have times when I'm doing a million things at once (my husband would say this is how I talk, too), but conversely, I also have times when I get sucked into a single task (like with a hobby) and then several hours later, I'm still going. Sometimes, it's when I'm hypomanic, and other times, it's just how I am.
matthew
says:
June, 2 2013 at 11:52 am
I find that I multi task a lot espicaly when on the hypomanic/manic side of things. Which means I get a lot done but maybe not as well or eficently as possible. I know it makes work intolerabl as I have to work linearly there. But when at home for example I will do the laundry, dust, vacume and organize all at once randomly jumping from one project to the other. I know last time I helped organize the garage I drove the person I was helping crazy cause I would start in one are and try to jump to another and another with out finishing the first or second area.
Julia
says:
June, 1 2013 at 4:01 pm
Yep,
I'm the same way, and it's interesting...I'll add a little note on to what another reader brought up that was partly the issue for her, a diagnosis of ADHD.

I too suffer from quite a case of ADHD, and if you read the literature, there is a very high rate of comorbidity between ADHD and Bipolar disorder. What that means is if someone has either disorder, they stand a higher chance of having the other also. Of course this is true for any mental illness: having one paves the way for having another. Yippee. These all occur together at different rates depending on the disorder, as well as the age and gender of patients.

Of perhaps even more interest is the finding that adhd and a manic phase of bipolar can be mistaken for each other. So what one needs to do is observe and track symptoms over an extended period of time; in my experience, at least 6 months. This makes sense though, because the symptoms ARE very similar and can present themselves seemingly identically.

That's what they did for me. I remember when I was first diagnosed with bipolar (type I, and only 8 months ago quasi-tentatively,2 months definitively), I felt like bipolar is just a version of adhd on a MUCH larger scale. Of course that's not quite true, but it shows how the presentation of one mimicked the other in my case.

Definitely pros and cons to multi-tasking. And it does depend on how you define it, because people could consider different scenarios as multi-tasking or not. Anyways, what I've figured out is that there are certain tasks that can be multi-tasked, and many that cannot. For instance, even though people do it, multi-tasking something else with driving is really a terrible idea because driving itself requires multi-tasking. Multi-tasking while doing laundry or dishes? Essential, or the task doesn't get done in my case. Think about it: laundry has multiple steps, many of which don't require your attention for extended periods of time. I'm not "just going to do laundry" for any amount of time...too boring.

My 10 cents on the matter.

Multi-task Wisely!

Julia
Gail
says:
June, 1 2013 at 12:46 pm
When I do this I see it as a warning sign for hypomania. I always ask myself - can I stop it? So I might spend 30 minutes completing a bunch of tasks then I will try to force myself to stop, to pause, to do just one thing, or even better, nothing. Just to check that I've not lost that ability. It usually works out okay.
Charles Mistretta
says:
June, 1 2013 at 2:30 am
Yep me to. I could give you numerous examples. The brain is like any other machine, it has to maintain a rhythm - electro chemical in nature, but none the less the beat is there. If you play a musical instrument, music is organized into beats per measure. The human brain operates at or near the speed of light. Reading becomes a chore because the cognitive metronome must be governed to a perceptible rate. Otherwise words are not processed with any degree of accuracy or snippets of information flash before your eyes from the page (even before reading) and become distracting, or the exercise in translation becomes redundant. Thank you for helping me to think of the process of mental perception as positive. And the beat goes on...
Donna
says:
May, 31 2013 at 1:28 pm
I know I multi-task but I rarely get anything done. Always going from one to another and another and another ...
:)
BC
says:
May, 31 2013 at 12:30 pm
I am the same way. But I too have ADD. When I take my ADD meds, I still multitask (3 things at one time) but manage to not forget what I'm doing between the 3 things.
People at work have called me a genius because I can retain information a normal person can't. I would definitely not call myself a genius, but I do love the way my brain works. Even if it is overwhleming at times.
Penny
says:
May, 31 2013 at 8:39 am
I used to be an efficient and effective multitasker. Boy I miss those days... I still do many things at once but, I start projects and forget to finish. My problem is "out of sight, out of mind". I am kind of like a hummingbird flitting around or a dog who sees a squirrel. Easily distracted! My husband gives me gentle reminders and I write notes to myself. If I don't, nothing gets done. At times, I feel brain damaged.
Ren Ster
says:
May, 31 2013 at 7:08 am
When I'm wired for sound and the Space Bunnies start yakking wall to wall at top volume in my head, I can't settle into activities. Then the "multitasking" urge kicks in. Otherwise, I consider myself a short burst person. Even on my best mental days, I can't divide my attention between too many tasks. I perform best with serial hyperfocusing. I was a Graphic Artist for screen printers and promo products shops for seven years before the cray kicked into overdrive. I could whip out art in my sleep on short deadlines, and the tasks constantly revolved, so I was well-matched to my profession.

I do notice when I'm manic, OCD, ADHD, and a couple of Aspeger's symptoms also hop on for the ride.
Tonya
says:
May, 31 2013 at 4:02 am
I too have a crazy busy brain Natasha and I feel like I'm always multitasking. At work or at home I seem to get bored with only doing one thing at a time because my brain is always in overdrive. Even if I'm sitting down to relax and watch TV, I'll still get on my computer or start filing my nails. I think that for us it's virtually impossible to focus on only one task at a time because of the racing thoughts. My brain simply won't allow me to think only about 1 thing. Even if I'm completing a task, in the meantime I'm thinking about what I'm going to do next. I find my constant racing thoughts to be exhausting and feel like I need a good amount of down time where I can relax and try to wind down.
Christy
says:
May, 31 2013 at 3:05 am
Natasha,

I too am a multitasker I am constantly on my lap top sitting in front of the tv or on my cell phone with social media or texting and doing it all at the same time it drives my husband nuts. My husband has ADD but seems to be more laid back then me. I like to socialize and be out in the crowd where as he is more of a home body and does things much slower than me which shocks me because he is the one with ADD. My son has ADHD and his brain goes even faster than mine...super smart kid and his thoughts are clear and not jumbled up like you would think...but I can tell when he hasn't taken his pills because he is the king of multi tasking skyping, playing a video game, texting and talking on his console head set and carrying on a conversation with me all at the same time. I think that it's ok for a medication vacation for him....but for me I need my meds to remain stable and my husband chooses not to medicate. So I can't really give you a def answer because I am the only one with bipolar in my family but my answer would be yes!
SB
says:
May, 30 2013 at 8:16 pm
I do this constantly. BUT I was finally diagnosed with ADD (primarily inattentive) as an adult which explains part of it too! It's like this...if your bipolar brain is running like a motor my cyclothymia brain is running like a motor but that motor is a v-8 or hemi with a spare tank of nitrous just in case when ADD joins the ride!

I find that this is a little different depending on the situation. If I am hypomanic I am more focused...focused in setting aside the side time to do everything in my manicky way. I may do 5 projects but I tend to jump in. Complete 1, move to 2, complete 2, move. on. I complete lots of small tasks that I usually do in a row at a hyomanic pace. But not really multitasking. So even when I slow down my pinball brain somewhat I still have the ADD brain engine pumping in too and working up those moves. And THAT is when he multitasking really kicks in. But I am multitasking but in a way that is often NOT productive. I tend to switch gears constantly. That is every day ADD! Sometimes I NEED to stop multitasking and focus. Then some days I just go with multitasking madness and get stuff done.

I mainly just want my brain to take a nap once in a while. It's too busy!
cindyaka
says:
May, 30 2013 at 7:04 pm
I'm one of those people who needs to do one task at a time,but I do many tasks quickly one after another. I tend to be a linear thinker so this works out well for me particularly when I'm manic leaning.

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