Factor analysis of temperament and personality traits in bipolar patients: Correlates with comorbidity and disorder severity

J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 1;207:282-290. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.031. Epub 2016 Oct 2.


Background: Temperament and personality traits have been suggested as endophenotypes for bipolar disorder based on several lines of evidence, including heritability. Previous work suggested an anxious-reactive factor identified across temperament and personality inventories that produced significant group discrimination and could potentially be useful in genetic analyses. We have attempted to further characterize this factor structure in a sample of bipolar patients.

Methods: A sample of 1195 subjects with bipolar I disorder was evaluated, all with complete data available. Dimension reduction across two inventories identified 18 factors explaining 39% of the variance.

Results: The two largest factors reflected affective instability and general anxiety/worry, respectively. Subsequent analyses of the clinical features associated with bipolar disorder revealed specificity for the factors in a predictable pattern. Cluster analysis of the factors identified a subgroup defined by a strong lack of general anxiety and low affective instability represented by the first two factors. The remaining subjects could be distinguished into two clusters by the presence of either more positive characteristics, including persistence/drive, spirituality, expressivity, and humor, or more negative characteristics of depression and anxiety.

Limitations: These analyses involved bipolar I subjects only and must be extended to other bipolar spectrum diagnoses, unaffected relatives, and individuals at risk.

Conclusions: These results suggest that temperament and personality measures access latent traits associated with important clinical features of bipolar disorder. By translating clinical variables into quantitative traits, we may identify subgroups of bipolar patients with distinct clinical profiles, thereby facilitating both individual treatment strategies and genetic analyses.

Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Cluster; Factor; Personality; Temperament.

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales*
  • Temperament*