Behavioural addictions in bipolar disorder patients: role of impulsivity and personality dimensions

Marco Di Nicola, Daniela Tedeschi, Marianna Mazza, Giovanni Martinotti, Desiree Harnic, Valeria Catalano, Angelo Bruschi, Gino Pozzi, Pietro Bria, Luigi Janiri
Journal of Affective Disorders 2010, 125 (1-3): 82-8

BACKGROUND: Behavioural addictions (BAs) can be understood as disorders characterized by repetitive occurrence of impulsive and uncontrolled behaviours. Very few studies have investigated their association with mood disorders. The present study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of the main behavioural addictions in a sample of bipolar outpatients in euthymic phase or stabilised by medications and to investigate the role of impulsivity and temperamental and character dimensions.

METHODS: One-hundred-fifty-eight Bipolar Disorder (BD) (DSM-IV) outpatients were assessed with tests designed to screen the main behavioural addictions: pathological gambling (SOGS), compulsive shopping (CBS), sexual (SAST), Internet (IAD), work (WART) and physical exercise (EAI) addictions. TCI-R and BIS-11 were administered to investigate impulsivity and personality dimensions mainly associated with BAs. The clinical sample has been compared with 200 matched healthy control subjects.

RESULTS: In bipolar patients, 33% presented at least one BA respect to the 13% of controls. Significantly higher scores at the scales for pathological gambling (p<.001), compulsive buying (p<.05), sexual (p<.001) and work addictions (p<.05) have been found. Self-Directness (p=.007) and Cooperativeness (p=.014) scores were significantly lower while impulsivity level was significantly higher (p=.007) in bipolar patients with BA than those without BA.

CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this is the first study investigating the prevalence of behavioural addictions in BD showing a significant association of these disorders. BAs are more frequent in bipolar patients than in healthy controls and are related to higher impulsivity levels and character immaturity.

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