Positive Emotion and Bipolar: Too much of a good thing?

Positive emotions are generally considered desirable and beneficial, but bipolar disorder may be a good example of how it is possible to have too much of a good thing. This is an issue explored by psychologist June Gruber of Yale University in an article to be published in next month's issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science. As Gruber notes, “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."

People with bipolar disorder do experience extremely negative emotions during depressive episodes, but they also experience the opposite end of the mood spectrum - the extremely positive and energetic mood characteristic of mania. But these extreme emotions on the "positive" end of the mood spectrum can be just as damaging and debilitating as those on the negative end. Gruber, who has studied people with bipolar disorder that is in remission, has also found that even those who are not currently experiencing mania can be prone to feeling positive emotions at inappropriate times.

Gruber thinks that looking an unusually high levels of positive emotion among those not currently in a manic state could help determine who with bipolar disorder is at risk of relapse, or even help predict who may develop bipolar disorder later in life. “Although positive emotions are generally good for us," says Gruber, "when they take extreme forms or when they’re experienced in the wrong context, the benefits of positive emotion begin to unravel."

Read more: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-07-good-bad-positive-emotions-bipolar...

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