Positive emotions can offer great benefits to people and even improve both physical and mental health. But in a recent article, June Gruber of Yale University explains how an extremely positive attitude can be harmful for people with bipolar. Episodes of mania are one of the symptoms of bipolar, and can cause someone to experience highly positive moods, elevated self-confidence and boundless energy. But this type of extreme emotion often goes hand in hand with reckless behavior. Gruber says, “The fact that positive emotion has gone awry is something unique about bipolar disorder, as almost all other emotional disorders are characterized by difficulties in negative emotions.” Gruber also notes that her previous research has found that people who were in remission from their bipolar symptoms still exhibited elevated moods even in the absence of manic episodes.
Gruber believes that the presence of abnormally positive moods may offer an opportunity to determine who is at a higher risk of experiencing a relapse of bipolar symptoms. When she studied a group of college students without bipolar, Gruber found that those with the most positive moods were also the most likely to develop bipolar. People with bipolar also tend to feel more positive about self-focused things rather than social emotions. Gruber says, “This mirrors early clinical observations and more recent scientific work,” that states people with bipolar are more ambitious and set higher goals than people without bipolar. But Gruber warns of the negative impact of the elevated moods. “Although positive emotions are generally good for us, when they take extreme forms or when they’re experienced in the wrong context, the benefits of positive emotion begin to unravel.” She says that even for people who are in remission from the symptoms of bipolar, the goal should be, “experience it in moderation, in the right place and time.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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