Affective dysregulation: Reactions to criticism in bipolar disorder

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Sheri L. Johnson - Committee Chair


Although Expressed Emotion (EE) is a predictor of poor course in various disorders, its effect size is not consistent. EE is a particularly strong predictor in the course of bipolar disorder. An affect dysregulation model was tested to account for the vulnerabilities to EE in bipolar disorder. Participants with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (n = 35) and without a history of a mood disorder (n = 35) received a standardized criticism by a confederate. The goal of the present study was to examine whether participants with bipolar disorder were more affectively dysregulated when presented with a criticism by testing the following hypotheses: (1) participants with bipolar disorder will display greater reactivity in negative affect than control participants in response to criticism, (2) participants with bipolar disorder will continue to display a more gradual slope in negative affect than control participants during a recovery period nine minutes after the criticism. The results of the current study indicate a trend for greater reactivity in the bipolar group and a significantly steeper recovery slope for the bipolar group compared to the control group. Nevertheless, differences in recovery were accounted for entirely by differences in reactivity. The subset of people with bipolar disorder who were more reactive to criticism was characterized by differences in education, disability status, and the perceived criticism of the feedback. Nonetheless, results of this study did not provide strong evidence for emotional reactivity to criticism in bipolar disorder. Possible explanations include affect dysregulation being a vulnerability only for a subset of people who have poorer functioning.


Psychology, Clinical

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