Study Analyzes How Bipolar Patients Regulate Emotions
For those with bipolar disorder, this aspect of their lives is often in flux, with emotions and reactions to events tossed wildly into positive and negative responses. Their experiences and perception of the experiences are often heightened by extreme mood swings.
This dysfunction in emotional response can lead to isolation and loneliness. The inability to regulate moods is often threatening and uncomfortable to others, and the lack of individuals to empathize and relate to those with bipolar can leave them feeling alone.
Bipolar patients can experience intense, heightened emotions that accelerate to a state of mania, and then be abruptly thrown into a depressed lethargy. For some with bipolar, this change can happen very quickly, while others assume one end of the extreme for lengthy periods of time. Patients are often focused on learning ways to understand and regulate the mood swings.
A recent study provides new information about how those with bipolar attempt to regulate their emotional response to stimuli. Researchers at Yale University, led by June Gruber of the Department of Psychology, examined efforts among individuals with bipolar disorder to regulate emotional volatility. They sought to measure the effectiveness of different methods of regulation.
The researchers included 75 individuals in their analysis, with approximately half of the participants having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The participants were shown films that were intended to promote feelings of sadness, happiness, or neutral emotional responses.
The research team evaluated the methods and level of effort involved among the participants in regulating emotional stability. They also examined whether the efforts were successful.
The team found that those with bipolar were more likely to suppress their emotions in a spontaneous way when compared with the controls. The effort among the bipolar participants required a significant energy commitment, and was rarely successful at regulating emotions.
The researchers found that even among those bipolar participants that were trained in using reappraisals, an adaptive technique, were not successful in regulating their emotional swings.
Gruber explains that the individuals involved in the study who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder were largely engaged in strategies designed to control emotions and mood swings, but they experienced very little success in using them.
The impact of the distorted emotional response can be extreme alienation from family and friends, as well as professional or academic peers. Patients are affected in multiple broad ways, such as cognitive, psychological and social processing in the brain.
The findings of the study are published in a recent issue of the journal Emotion.