Impulsivity and phase of illness in bipolar disorder

J Affect Disord. 2003 Jan;73(1-2):105-11. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0327(02)00328-2.


Background: Impulsivity is prominent in bipolar disorder, but there is little quantitative information relating it to phase of illness.

Methods: We measured impulsivity in patients with bipolar disorder who had not met episode criteria for at least 6 months, patients who were manic, and healthy control subjects. Impulsivity was measured using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS) and performance on the computerized Immediate Memory-Remote Memory Task (IMT-DMT), based on the Continuous Performance Test, which has been shown to reflect risk of impulsivity in other populations.

Results: BIS scores in euthymic and manic bipolar subjects were identical, and were significantly elevated compared to controls. Commission errors (impulsive responses) on the IMT-DMT were elevated in manic subjects but were identical to controls in euthymic subjects. Measures of impulsivity did not appear related to depressive symptoms.

Limitations: The number of subjects was too small for detailed investigation of the role of comorbidities; subjects were receiving pharmacological treatments.

Conclusions: Impulsivity has state- and trait-related aspects in bipolar disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Disease Progression
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Severity of Illness Index