Emotion regulation in bipolar disorder: Self-report profiles and effects of psychotropic medication

Document Type

Journal Article


Giovanni Fioriti Editore srl


School of Arts and Humanities




Becerra, R., Bassett, D., & Harms, C. (2016). Emotion regulation in bipolar disorder: Self-report profiles and effects of psychotropic medication. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 13(4/7). 59-67,

Available here.


Objective: given the importance of emotion regulation (ER) in the aetiology and/or maintenance of psychopathology, we investigated subjective reports of ER in a group of bipolar individuals and compared the results to a group of depressed and healthy control participants. Additionally, we explored the impact of psychotropic medication on ER.

Method: 24 participants diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BD), 38 participants diagnosed with major depression (mD), and 38 healthy controls (hc), were administered a multifaceted measure of ER. We also explored the impact antidepressants on ER and explored whether the amount of psychotropic medication had a differential effect on ER.

Results: BD and MD participants scored significantly higher than the HC groups on the overall DERS, suggesting, predictably, that the diagnostic groups had more difficulties regulating their emotions. Additionally, comparing MD and HC groups, participants with depression showed difficulties with acceptance, engaging with goal-directed behaviour, impulsivity, and access to effective strategies. In contrast, BD participants showed selective difficulties with accessing emotion regulation strategies as compared to HC group. The exploratory part of the study failed to find a positive effect of antidepressants on ER or any impact of the amount of psychotropic medications on ER.

Conclusions: Difficulties in regulating emotions differentiate between healthy controls and diagnostic groups. Furthermore, BD participants showed less difficulties regulating emotions than MD but still more difficulties than HC. Assessment of these differences appears possible if a multifaceted measure of ER is utilised. Additionally, our results showed that antidepressants did not improve ER and that the overall amount of medication was not associated with ER. Although robust conclusions regarding medications and ER are not possible in this exploratory part of our study, it appears that the precise effect of psychotropic, including antidepressants, is an area in need of further research.

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