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J Affect Disord. 2013 Jan 25;144(3):240-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.07.005. Epub 2012 Aug 16.

Clinical features associated with trait-impulsiveness in euthymic bipolar disorder patients.

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Inserm, U955, Créteil 94000, France.



A strong association has been reported between trait-impulsiveness and bipolar disorder (BD). Much attention has been focused on this association, but subgroup analysis has generated conflicting results, raising questions about the role of trait-impulsiveness in suicidal behavior and substance misuse in bipolar patients.


We compared Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-10 scores between 385 euthymic bipolar patients and 185 healthy controls. We then investigated possible association between impulsiveness scores and the following clinical characteristics: suicide attempt (SA), lifetime alcohol/cannabis misuse, rapid cycling and mixed episodes.


Bipolar patients and healthy controls had significantly different BIS-10 total score and subscores (motor, attentional and nonplanning impulsiveness) (all p values <0.0001). No association was observed between BIS-10 total score, personal history of SA, number of SA, age at first SA and history of violent SA. Higher BIS-10 total scores were associated with alcohol misuse (p=0.005), cannabis misuse (p<0.0001), with an additive effect for these two substances (p=0.005). Higher BIS-10 total scores were also associated with rapid cycling (p=0.006) and history of mixed episodes (p=0.002), with an additive effect of these two variables (p=0.0006).


We used only one clinical measurement of impulsiveness and did not carry out cognitive assessment.


This study demonstrates that trait-impulsiveness may be considered as a dimensional feature associated with BD and with a more severe clinical expression of the disease, characterized by a history of substance misuse, rapid cycling and mixed episodes. We found no association between impulsiveness and SA characteristics in bipolar patients, confirming some previous negative results.

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