Charles S. Carver

Johnson, S. L., Carver, C. S., Mul, S., & Joormann, J. (2013). Impulsivity and risk for mania: Toward greater specificity. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 86, 401-412. DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8341.2012.02078.x

Impulsivity is elevated among people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and recent evidence suggests that impulsivity can predict onset among those at risk for the disorder. Impulsivity, though, is a broad construct.

Objective. The goal of this study was to examine whether some aspects of impulsivity are more correlated with risk for mania than others. We hypothesized that risk for mania would be related specifically to difficulties controlling impulsive responses to emotions.

Design and Methods. Undergraduates (N = 257) completed a large battery of measures of emotion-relevant and non-emotional forms of impulsivity, along with a well-validated measure of risk for mania, the Hypomanic Personality Scale (HPS).

Results. Analyses examined correlations of impulsivity scales with the HPS, and partial correlations controlling for lifetime tendencies toward depressive symptoms and current symptoms of alcohol abuse, both of which relate to impulsivity and often co-occur with mania. After controlling for these measures, risk for mania remained correlated with measures of impulsive responses to positive emotions, but not with difficulties in following through or with impulsivity in the context of general distress emotions.

Conclusions. Although impulsivity is a major concern among those at risk for mania and those diagnosed with mania, difficulties may be especially evident during positive affective states, and other forms of impulsivity may be less related to mania risk. Discussion focuses on limitations and future directions.

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