Bipolar disorders are often associated with creativity and other positive personality attributes. Some researchers want to explore these links to find better treatment protocols.
Living with bipolar disorder can mean experiencing shifts in mood and energy levels. The label actually refers to a group of conditions that involve episodes of high or low excitability or irritability, often interfering with daily life.
Personality traits are important for researchers in at least two ways. People with a bipolar disorder diagnosis may be more likely to have some of the “big five” personality traits, such as neuroticism.
Also, understanding that people with a diverse range of personality traits may also have bipolar disorder allows researchers to study whether certain traits can affect how the condition progresses — specifically how severe the symptoms may become.
Researchers have found there may be some personality traits that are more common in people with bipolar disorder.
Varying research supports that eight personality traits may be prevalent in people with a bipolar disorder diagnosis:
Some of these traits are considered “positive,” elevating a person’s well-being and contributions to society. An older literature review
A paper from 2016 suggested that recognizing the potential for a shared genetic link between bipolar disorder and one of these traits — creativity — may help to find better treatment targets.
The researchers note many people with the diagnosis forgo current treatment protocols because of the “negative” effects they can have on their subjective experience of creativity.
There’s also research on a few of the “big five” personality traits and how they may affect the course of bipolar disorder. The big five personality traits consist of:
A 2022 study examined how certain traits might impact symptom severity. For example, the study concluded that those categorized as “highly vulnerable,” may have poorer treatment outcomes.
Those in this category had high levels of neuroticism and low levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
This study assumed that people who share a bipolar disorder diagnosis could nonetheless have different personality traits from one another.
Another recent study, conducted in
Bipolar disorders are a group of conditions that includes bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. While they share common aspects, their symptoms are distinct.
When researchers try to link personality traits with those who have this diagnosis, they often take the type of bipolar disorder into account:
- Bipolar I disorder: Diagnosed when a person experiences a manic episode, where they have high energy and changes in behavior. A manic episode may include increased risk-taking, less sleep, and increased activity.
- Bipolar II disorder: Diagnosed when a person has a hypomanic episode, which is a less severe form of mania, and a major depressive episode. A period of major depression includes intense sadness and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
- Cyclothymic disorder: Another form of bipolar disorder. People experience symptoms of hypomania and major depression, but never a full episode. They go through many changes in mood frequently over the course of at least 2 years.
Another 2017 study also found an association between neuroticism and bipolar II disorder.
Some people with bipolar disorder also have a diagnosis of another personality disorder, including borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder.
It’s unclear how common these co-occurring diagnoses are, but many of the symptoms of these conditions overlap.
Borderline personality disorder is frequently discussed alongside bipolar disorder. A 2016 analysis of studies published between 1985 and 2015 found that about one-fifth (20%) of the people discussed had both conditions.
This might support the view that many people with one of these conditions may also have the other. But a 2017 study of 248 people with borderline personality disorder and 113 with bipolar disorder admitted to a psychiatric unit found only 3.6% had both conditions.
Some experts distinguish between bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder by the fact that bipolar disorder symptoms occur in episodes while those of borderline personality disorder exist over many years.
Those with borderline personality disorder may have an unstable sense of self. Both conditions are marked by shifts in mood and can involve being impulsive.
A 2021 literature review found that antisocial personality disorder was more common among people with bipolar disorder, in particular bipolar I disorder.
People with bipolar disorder may have high levels of creativity, resilience, and other positive personality traits. Knowing more about these connections may help researchers to find new and better ways to manage the condition.
In addition, having certain personality traits, like neuroticism, may affect how symptoms progress over time and predict treatment outcomes.
People with bipolar disorder may also have borderline personality disorder or another diagnosis and symptoms can overlap between conditions.
Bipolar disorders are treatable, manageable conditions. Speaking with a mental health professional can be the first step in an important journey to learn more about the diagnosis. For a list of resources, visit PsychCentral’s Find Help page today.