Affective dynamics in bipolar spectrum psychopathology: Modeling inertia, reactivity, variability, and instability in daily life

Sarah H. Sperry, Thomas R. Kwapil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Bipolar psychopathology is characterized by affective dysregulation independent of mood episodes. However, previous research has relied on laboratory-based emotion-eliciting tasks or retrospective questionnaires that do not take into account temporal dynamics of affect. Thus, the present study examined affective dynamics (reactivity, variability, instability, and inertia) of low and high arousal negative affect (NA) and positive affect (PA) in daily life in those at risk for bipolar psychopathology. Methods: Undergraduates (n = 135) completed the Hypomanic Personality Scale and experience sampling surveys assessing affective experiences 8 times daily for 7 days. Results: HPS scores were associated with greater reactivity of NA when experiencing negative or stressful events, variability of NA (high and low arousal) and PA (high arousal), and instability of NA and PA (high and low arousal) in daily life. HPS scores were associated with a high probability of acute increases in NA and PA and were unassociated with levels of inertia. Limitations: This study only examined short-term dynamics over 7 days. Future studies should model both short- and long-term dynamics and whether these dynamics predict behavioral outcomes. Conclusions: These results provide evidence that bipolar spectrum psychopathology is characterized by reactivity of NA as well as variability, instability, and acute increases in NA and PA in daily life over-and-above mean levels of affect. Modeling affective dynamics may provide context-relevant information about the course and trajectory of bipolar spectrum psychopathology and should facilitate the use of experience sampling methodology to study and intervene in mood lability in patients with bipolar disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-204
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - May 15 2019


  • Affective dynamics
  • Bipolar spectrum psychopathology
  • Emotion dynamics
  • Intraindividual variability
  • MSSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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