Bipolar Spectrum Psychopathology Is Associated With Altered Emotion Dynamics Across Multiple Timescales

Sarah H. Sperry, Thomas R. Kwapil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emotion dysregulation is a core feature of bipolar spectrum psychopathology and may confer risk for poor outcomes or progression along the bipolar spectrum. However, previous research on bipolar psychopathology has primarily concentrated on characterizing distinct mood episodes and failed to characterize microlevel dynamics of the experience of emotion. This is the first study to our knowledge to comprehensively examine the extent to which bipolar spectrum psychopathology, as measured by the Hypomanic Personality Scale (HPS), is associated with altered dynamics of positive (PA) and negative affect (NA) across multiple timescales. Young adults (n = 233) oversampled for high HPS scores (>1.5 SD) completed self-report questionnaires and 14 days of experience sampling questionnaires assessing high and low-arousal NA and PA. Four emotion dynamics (reactivity, variability, instability, inertia) were computed from each participant’s time series. As predicted, HPS scores were positively associated with variability and instability of high-arousal NA and PA both within and between days (over and above mean levels of emotions, depression, and neuroticism). Further, HPS scores were associated with large fluctuations in low-but not high-arousal NA and moderated stress reactivity. Specifically, high scorers on the HPS were more likely to report feeling like their emotions were out of control (but not high-intensity NA) when experiencing stress. Contrary to expectation, HPS scores were unassociated with inertia of high-arousal PA. Findings indicated that microlevel emotion dynamics are disrupted across multiple timescales in those high in bipolar spectrum psychopathology. Examining emotion dynamics should enhance understanding of risk for bipolar disorders and facilitate development of mood-monitoring interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-640
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Affect
  • Bipolar
  • Emotion dynamics
  • Experience sampling methodology
  • Time series analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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