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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Sep;97(3):549-65. doi: 10.1037/a0016061.

Bipolar spectrum-substance use co-occurrence: Behavioral approach system (BAS) sensitivity and impulsiveness as shared personality vulnerabilities.

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Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.


Bipolar disorders and substance use disorders (SUDs) show high co-occurrence. One explanation for this co-occurrence may be common personality vulnerabilities involved in both. The authors tested whether high behavioral approach system (BAS) sensitivity and impulsiveness are shared personality vulnerabilities in bipolar spectrum disorders and substance use problems and their co-occurrence in a longitudinal study of 132 individuals on the bipolar spectrum and 153 control participants. At Time 1, participants completed the Behavioral Inhibition System/BAS Scales and the Impulsive Nonconformity Scale. Substance use problems were assessed via the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test and the Drug Abuse Screening Test at 4-month intervals for 1 year. Participants with bipolar disorder had higher rates of lifetime SUDs and substance use problems during the follow-up, relative to control participants. In line with hypotheses, higher BAS sensitivity and impulsiveness predicted bipolar status and increased substance use problems prospectively. BAS total, BAS Fun Seeking, and impulsiveness mediated the association between bipolar spectrum status and prospective substance use problems, with impulsiveness as the most important mediator. High BAS sensitivity and impulsiveness may represent shared personality vulnerabilities for both disorders and may partially account for their co-occurrence.

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