Background: Increased impulsivity is a diagnostic feature of mania in bipolar disorder (BD). However it is unclear whether increased impulsivity is also a trait feature of BD and therefore present in remission. Trait impulsivity can also be construed as a personality dimension but the relationship between personality and impulsivity in BD has not been explored. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship of impulsivity to clinical status and personality characteristics in patients with BD.
Methods: We measured impulsivity using the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) and personality dimensions using Eysenck Personality Questionnaire in 106 BD patients and demographically matched healthy volunteers. Clinical symptoms were assessed in all participants using the Clinical Global Impressions Scale, the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale and the Young Mania Rating Scale. Based on their clinical status patients were divided in remitted (n = 36), subsyndromal (n = 25) and syndromal (n = 45).
Results: There was no difference in BIS-11 and EPQ scores between remitted patients and healthy subjects. Impulsivity, Neuroticism and Psychoticism scores were increased in subsyndromal and syndromal patients. Within the BD group, total BIS-11 score was predicted mainly by symptoms severity followed by Psychoticism and Neuroticism scores.
Conclusions: Increased impulsivity may not be a trait feature of BD. Symptom severity is the most significant determinant of impulsivity measures even in subsyndromal patients.