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Bipolar Disorder, Predicting Emotions, and Impact on Social and Personal Life

women with no ride homeI am interpreting and predicting others’ thoughts and emotions, almost unconsciously, every day.

I do not know exactly when it started, but it is regular, constant.

I focus on my husband, friends, colleagues, boss—I think I know what they are thinking, and it is usually negative.

For a while, I thought some more: Do I have some kind of psychic power? Am I just super-emotionally-sensitive? Overly intelligent?

Does it actually stem from anxiety?

It causes me internal stress all the time.

According to brand new research from the Yale Psychology Department, there may be a new-found reason why people with bipolar experience stress from others’ emotional expressions and reactions.

Yale’s Findings  

Let’s start with the basics of this study: Individuals with bipolar disorder not currently suffering from its symptoms are able to perceive others’ emotions just as accurately as “healthy” subjects, or subjects with unipolar depression.

The research team used a test to measure emotional perceptions. They suspected the patients with bipolar would be less accurate in their ability to sense others’ emotional states—they were wrong.

Individuals with remitted bipolar disorder accurately perceive the emotions of others, just like the other groups.

The Study in Depth

All subjects viewed a series of pictures with human faces displaying varying emotions.

They tried to identify the emotion as quickly and accurately as possible.

However, while accuracy did not differ, reaction times varied widely.

Individuals with bipolar disorder made judgments more rapidly than both the control group and the unipolar group.

Yale professor June Gruber says this suggests that the quicker the subject with bipolar guessed the emotion, the worse life-functioning difficulties they exhibited.

Gruber infers this kind of impulsive guessing may cause personal, internal issues.

Guessing Others’ Emotions

The subjects followed up later—and those patients with bipolar that reacted quickest in the study had the most social impairment.

This is likely due to jumping to conclusions about others’ emotional states.


The connection between reaction time and social functioning could lead to new, targeted treatments for bipolar illness.

Indeed, the study was confined to a laboratory, but researchers like Gruber hope they can translate this information to everyday social situations.


Do you guess others emotions? Does it happen rapidly? Does it affect your life negatively?


Source: Cugnon, M. (2013, November 12). Emotional processing in bipolar disorder studied. Retrieved from

Photo Credit:  goldsardine via Compfight

Bipolar Disorder, Predicting Emotions, and Impact on Social and Personal Life

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2013). Bipolar Disorder, Predicting Emotions, and Impact on Social and Personal Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Nov 2013
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