The interplay of daily affect and impulsivity measured by mobile surveys in bipolar disorder

Int J Bipolar Disord. 2022 Oct 31;10(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s40345-022-00270-8.


Background: Impulsivity is a prominent feature of bipolar disorder associated with various negative sequelae; moreover, it may be a precursor to shifts in affect or mood, but little is known about its association with affect on a day-to-day timescale. Ecological momentary assessments (a method that captures moment-to-moment ratings of psychological states by repeatedly sampling the same individual) of impulsivity and affect using mobile surveys allow for more nuanced examination of mechanisms of mood and behavior dysregulation. However, few existing studies have validated an ecological momentary assessment of impulsivity in bipolar disorder and examined its time-lagged associations with positive and negative affect. 70 participants with bipolar disorder and 102 healthy comparisons participated in an intensive longitudinal study: they underwent 14 days of ecological momentary assessment data collection annually for 1-4 years. Multiple measures of impulsivity and affect were collected using self-report, behavioral, and ecological momentary assessment modalities; these measures were compared, and levels of impulsivity were compared between bipolar disorder and healthy comparison groups. Time-lagged analyses using daily means explored the next-day predictive relationship of impulsivity on positive/negative affect, and vice versa.

Results: The ecological momentary measure of impulsivity was moderately correlated with the self-report but not behavioral impulsivity measure. Bipolar disorder participants evinced higher self-report, behavioral, and daily impulsivity than healthy comparison participants. Time-lagged analyses revealed a bi-directional association between high impulsivity and high next-day negative (but not positive) affect. Post hoc analyses showed that impulsivity specifically predicted next-day anger and anxiety.

Conclusions: Our multimodal assessment of impulsivity allowed for an examination of the day-to-day course of impulsivity and affect, crucial steps toward understanding the mechanisms of mood symptom and episode onset in bipolar disorder.

Keywords: Affect; Bipolar disorder; Ecological momentary assessment; Impulsivity; Time-lagged analysis.