A new study involving people with bipolar suggests that setting extrinsic goals may be a predictor for manic episodes. Individuals with bipolar disorder are aware that setting high goals can cause them to get overstimulated and result in a manic episode. “The reward sensitivity model has been found to be useful in predicting the course of mania; indeed, increases in mania over time have been predicted by self-reported reward sensitivity, life events involving reward, and elevations in behavior focused on attaining reward and goals,” said Sheri L. Johnson of the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, and lead author of a recent study examining the relationship between reward sensitivity and the development of bipolar. “People with bipolar disorder appear to value goal pursuit more than do other people.”
Of particular interest to Johnson and her colleagues was the pursuit of extrinsic goals, namely fame and financial gain. “On the whole, findings regarding high aspirations for popular fame and low aspirations for friendships and family suggest that people with bipolar disorder adopt extrinsically rather than intrinsically motivated goals,” said Johnson. “Several early studies suggest that a better understanding of goal dysregulation might be relevant for treatment planning.” For her study, Johnson examined the goals of 92 people with bipolar 1 and a control group using the Willingly Approached Set of Statistically Unlikely Pursuits (WASSUP) model, and followed their pursuit of these highly ambitious aspirations over a three month period.
“Participants with bipolar disorder endorsed higher ambitions for popular fame than did controls; moreover, heightened ambitions for popular fame and financial success predicted increases in manic symptoms in those with bipolar disorder over the next three months.” Johnson added, “We have designed a mania treatment that involves techniques for modulating high goal setting. Over the course of the intervention, participants demonstrated significant decreases in WASSUP scores and interviewer ratings of manic symptom severity.” Johnson believes that insight into how goal dysregulation affects bipolar and how to manage it will help influence effective interventions for those at risk for bipolar and manic episodes.
Johnson, S. L., Carver, C. S., & Gotlib, I. H. (2011, November 21). Elevated Ambitions for Fame Among Persons Diagnosed With Bipolar I Disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026370
© 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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