Background: Bipolar disorder (BD) and the anxiety disorders are highly comorbid. The present study sought to examine perfectionism and goal attainment values as potential mechanisms of known associations between anxiety, stress and BD symptomatology. Measures of perfectionism and goal attainment values were administered to 269 members of BD pedigrees, alongside measures of anxiety and stress, and BD mood symptoms. Regression analyses were used to determine whether perfectionism and goal attainment values were related to depressive and (hypo)manic symptoms; planned mediation models were then used to test the potential for perfectionism to mediate associations between anxiety/stress and BD symptoms.
Results: Self-oriented perfectionism was associated with chronic depressive symptoms; socially-prescribed perfectionism was associated with chronic (hypo)manic symptoms. Self-oriented perfectionism mediated relationships between anxiety/stress and chronic depressive symptoms even after controlling for chronic hypomanic symptoms. Similarly, socially-prescribed perfectionism mediated associations between anxiety/stress and chronic hypomanic symptoms after controlling for chronic depressive symptoms. Goal attainment beliefs were not uniquely associated with chronic depressive or (hypo)manic symptoms.
Conclusions: Cognitive styles of perfectionism may explain the co-occurrence of anxiety and stress symptoms and BD symptoms. Psychological interventions for anxiety and stress symptoms in BD might therefore address perfectionism in attempt to reduce depression and (hypo)manic symptoms in addition to appropriate pharmacotherapy.
Keywords: Anxiety; Bipolar disorder; Psychology; Stress.