Individuals with bipolar disorder experience amplified emotionality, which affects coping flexibility and goal pursuit during the recovery process, according to research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Researchers emphasized that, “empowering clients by using appropriate coping is crucial along the course of personal recovery.”

“This is the first study to test the coping flexibility model empirically among people with [bipolar disorder],” the researchers wrote. “Finding ways to cope with goal-striving life events should shed light on managing elevated mood states.”

Using a 12-month longitudinal follow-up study, researchers examined the stability in coping flexibility with experimentally devised Behavioral Approach System (BAS) activating life events and mood states among 83 individuals with bipolar disorder and 89 healthy controls. Hierarchical linear modeling tested the individual growth model, examining the longitudinal data.

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The findings confirmed amplified emotionality associated with bipolar disorder and demonstrated fluctuations in different components of coping flexibility and mood states across time. In predicting mood states, coping flexibility took precedence over BAS sensitivity and psychosocial functioning levels. Coping flexibility also changed across time, influencing corresponding mood variations. The maintenance of elevated levels of coping strategies and perceived controllability added to overelevated mood states across time.

The results also suggest that individuals with bipolar disorder may deactivate or activate their mood states by changing their perceived controllability of life events and the corresponding coping strategies for dealing with these events. Coping strategies and adjustment of perceived controllability are critical for individuals with bipolar disorder to reach personal recovery goals and manage manic mood symptoms. These findings can extend the role of coping flexibility in cognitive behavioral therapy and augment pertinent psychosocial interventions.

The study had several limitations including a lack of data on bipolar subtypes. The measurements of BAS sensitivity may focus solely on trait nature and be prone to subjective bias, and the assessment of mood or coping flexibility may not capture daily life experience accurately.

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Chan SHW, Tse S. Coping with amplified emotionality among people with bipolar disorder: a longitudinal study. J Affect Disord. 2018;239: 303-312.