Bipolar Disorder and Ambition

A growing body of evidence suggests that people with bipolar disorder are highly goal-oriented. Compared to other persons, they expend more effort to attain rewards and view goal pursuit as more important to their self-worth. Persons at risk for mania and those diagnosed with bipolar spectrum disorders have been shown to endorse highly ambitious life goals, such as becoming a multimillionaire or achieving fame,   A study published in Journal of Abnormal Psychology is the first examination of whether such elevated goals characterize persons diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. The study also examined whether elevated ambitions predicted symptom change over time. Ninety-two persons with bipolar I disorder and 81 age- and sex-matched controls completed the Willingly Approached Set of Statistically Unlikely Pursuits, a measure of extremely high life ambitions. A subset of the bipolar participants completed a 3-month follow-up interview. 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. Discussion focused on goal regulation in bipolar disorder. For the abstract

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