Emotion dynamics concurrently and prospectively predict mood psychopathology

Sarah H. Sperry, Molly A. Walsh, Thomas R. Kwapil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: Altered emotion dynamics may represent a transdiagnostic risk factor for mood psychopathology. The present study examined whether altered emotion dynamics were associated with bipolar and depressive psychopathology concurrently and at a three-year follow-up. Methods: At baseline (n = 138), participants completed diagnostic interviews, questionnaires, and seven days of experience sampling assessments. Four emotion dynamics were computed for negative affect (NA) and positive affect (PA) – within-person variance (variability), mean square of successive differences and probability of acute change (instability), and autocorrelation (inertia). At the three-year follow-up, participants (n = 108) were re-assessed via interviews and questionnaires. Results: NA variability was associated with bipolar spectrum disorders at baseline and follow-up. NA instability predicted depressive symptoms and hypomanic personality at baseline, and bipolar spectrum disorders at the follow-up. NA inertia did not predict diagnoses or symptoms at either assessment. PA inertia predicted hyperthymic temperament at baseline but not follow-up. Notably, NA variability and instability predicted the development of new bipolar spectrum disorders at the follow-up. Limitations: Consistent with the recruitment strategy and young age of the participants, only 50% had developed diagnosable psychopathology by the time of the follow-up assessment. Conclusions: The present study provided a unique demonstration that altered emotion dynamics differentially predicted bipolar and depressive psychopathology concurrently and prospectively. Emotion dynamics are important to both digital phenotyping and mobile-based interventions as emotional instability offers a measurable risk factor that is identifiable prior to illness onset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Jan 15 2020


  • Bipolar
  • Depression
  • Emotion dynamics
  • Experience sampling methodology
  • Instability
  • Time series analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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