Evidence for avolition in bipolar disorder? A 30-day ecological momentary assessment comparison of daily activities in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

Psychiatry Res. 2021 Jun;300:113924. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.113924. Epub 2021 Apr 4.


Objectives: Disability is common in bipolar disorder (BD) and predicted by persistent sadness. We used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to examine daily activities in people with BD and schizophrenia. We classified activities as productive, unproductive, or passive recreation, relating them to momentary sadness, location, and social context.

Methods: 71 people with BD and 102 people with schizophrenia were sampled 3 times/day for 30 days with an EMA survey. Each survey asked where they were, with whom, what they were doing, and if they were sad.

Results: People with BD were home more than 50% of the time. There were no differences in prevalence of activity types across diagnoses. People with BD were less likely to report only one activity since the prior survey, but the most surveys still reported only one. For both groups, sadness and being home and alone since the last survey was associated with less productive activity and more passive recreation.

Conclusions: Participants with BD and schizophrenia manifested high levels of unproductive and passive activities, predicted by momentary sadness. These activity patterns are consistent with descriptions of avolition and they minimally differentiated people with BD and schizophrenia. Previous reports of negative symptoms in BD may have been identifying these behaviors.

Keywords: Activity; Bipolar disorder; Disability; Ecological momentary assessment; Sadness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Humans
  • Schizophrenia* / epidemiology