Impulsivity in adolescent bipolar disorder

Kirsten E. Gilbert, Jessica H. Kalmar, Fay Y. Womer, Philip J. Markovich, Brian Pittman, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Hilary P. Blumberg

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19 Scopus citations


Gilbert KE, Kalmar JH, Womer FY, Markovich PJ, Pittman B, Nolen-Hoeksema S, Blumberg HP. Impulsivity in adolescent bipolar disorder. Objective: Increased impulsivity has been shown to be a trait feature of adults with bipolar disorder (BD), yet impulsivity has received little study in adolescents with BD. Thus, it is unknown whether it is a trait feature that is present early in the course of the disorder. We tested the hypotheses that self-reported impulsiveness is increased in adolescents with BD, and that it is present during euthymia, supporting impulsiveness as an early trait feature of the disorder. Methods: Impulsiveness was assessed in 23 adolescents with BD and 23 healthy comparison (HC) adolescents using the self-report measure of impulsivity, the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS), comprised by attentional, motor and non-planning subscale scores. Effects of subscale scores and associations of scores with mood state and course features were explored. Results: Total and subscale BIS scores were significantly higher in adolescents with BD than HC adolescents. Total, attentional and motor subscale BIS scores were also significantly higher in the subset of adolescents with BD who were euthymic, compared to HC adolescents. Adolescents with BD with rapid-cycling and chronic mood symptoms had significantly higher total and motor subscale BIS scores than adolescents with BD without these course features. Conclusion: These results suggest increased self-reported impulsiveness is a trait feature of adolescents with BD. Elevated impulsivity may be especially prominent in adolescents with rapid-cycling and chronic symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-61
Number of pages5
JournalActa Neuropsychiatrica
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • adolescents
  • bipolar disorder
  • impulsivity


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