Emotion regulation in bipolar disorder: Are emotion regulation abilities less compromised in euthymic bipolar disorder than unipolar depressive or anxiety disorders?


Objective: This study investigated the profile of emotion dysregulation in Bipolar Disorder (BD) and compared it to Unipolar Depression, Anxiety, and Healthy control groups. Methods: 148 euthymic patients diagnosed with BD (n = 48), Unipolar Depressive disorder (n = 50), Anxiety disorder (n = 50), and a Healthy Control (HC) group (n = 48) were evaluated using the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS). The DERS yields a total score in addition to scores on six subcomponents believed to encapsulate the emotion dysregulation construct. Results: Compared to the healthy control group, all clinical groups (BD, Unipolar Depression, and Anxiety) reported significantly greater overall difficulties in emotion regulation (Total DERS) and difficulties specific to the DERS subcomponent measures: Goals, Impulse, and Strategies. The profile of emotion dysregulation was virtually identical for the Unipolar Depression and Anxiety groups, with BD demonstrating emotion regulation difficulties intermediate between controls and the two clinical groups. Specifically, emotion regulation in the BD group was significantly less compromised in the domains of acceptance of emotions, emotional awareness, and emotional clarity compared to the depression and anxiety groups. Conclusions: Emotion regulation abilities among people with euthymic BD were significantly less compromised than Unipolar Depression and Anxiety groups with regards to emotional awareness, acceptance of emotions, and understanding of emotions. However, emotion regulation abilities pertaining to engagement in goal directed behaviour, impulse control, and access to emotion regulation strategies were similarly compromised across all three clinical groups. This profile might help enrich extant adjunct psychological interventions for BD by enlisting emotion regulation strategies with the aim of decreasing the relapse rate that characterises BD.

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Becerra, R. , Cruise, K. , Murray, G. , Bassett, D. , Harms, C. , Allan, A. and Hood, S. (2013) Emotion regulation in bipolar disorder: Are emotion regulation abilities less compromised in euthymic bipolar disorder than unipolar depressive or anxiety disorders?. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 3, 1-7. doi: 10.4236/ojpsych.2013.34A001.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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