Personality Traits In Bipolar

Change is upon me.

I am in a season of change, I can feel it creeping much like Winter to Spring. It’s time to really accept what I cannot change, move on and find what it means to be truly happy with the now.

My mom has always said that I resist change.

As I drove home to the RV one afternoon, I realized she has been right this whole time. I wondered if that was bipolar related and although I didn’t find the answer yet, I did stumble upon a study of personality traits associated with bipolar disorder and it fascinated me that bipolar could affect my personality.

According to this article, “When compared to healthy individuals, bipolar patients achieve higher scores on novelty seeking (Young et al., 1995; Osher et al., 1999; Evans et al., 2005), harm avoidance (Young et al., 1995; Osher et al., 1996; Engstrom et al., 2004a; Evans et al., 2005) and reward dependence (Osher et al., 1996), and lower scores on persistence (Osher et al., 1996; Osher et al., 1999) and self-directedness (Engstrom et al., 2004a; Evans et al., 2005). In bipolar disorder, higher scores on harm avoidance were also associated with early onset of disease and fewer suicide attempts (Engstrom et al., 2003; Engstrom et al., 2004b).”

So let’s take this information and put it into pieces-

Novelty Seeking: “Individuals high in novelty seeking are described as exploratory, curious, impulsive, extravagant, enthusiastic and disorderly (Cloninger et al., 1994)”. I see this with my impulses the most. I live life on my impulses, whatever direction they take me. That could mean a spontaneous move, buying something I can not afford, or even changing plans on someone last minute.

Harm Avoidance: “Harm avoidance (HA), a personality trait characterized by excessive worrying, pessimism, shyness, and being fearful, doubtful, and easily fatigued, is suggested to be related to low serotonergic activity.” (Chen, 2015) I see this as true in my own life. Before medication I would worry a lot about anything and everything. So much so, that I would stress myself out until I was tired. It was a constant cycle of worry, stress, anxiety, and fatigue. After medication, however, I have worried less and broken that cycle.

Reward Dependence- “a tendency to respond to positive signals such as social approval and to maintain rewarded behavior.” (APA, n.d.) This can also lead to addictions, with 56% of people with bipolar disorder having a history of illicit drug abuse, and 44% have abused or are dependent on alcohol. (American Addiction Center, 2022) I have struggled with addictive behavior as well. Promiscuity, eating, and nicotine to name a few.

Persistence- “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” (According to Google) The lower score in persistence makes me think how I cannot seem to stick with one thing and be consistent with it. I find it very difficult to change my routine for a long period of time. My regular routine is not working for me, so this inconsistency is frustrating.

Self-Directedness – “making your own decisions and organizing your own work rather than being told what to do by other people”(Cambridge English Dictionary). Getting a lower score on self-directedness means people with bipolar disorder have a hard time with performing consistent work and I suspect a lot of us are procrastinators. It’s not how I want to be, so I will be constantly worrying that people will see me as lazy or unreliable.

Being bipolar is not just a mood disorder, it is the very fabric of our being.

Check out the following articles for more information:

Chen, C.-Y., Lin, S.-H., Li, P., Huang, W.-L., & Lin, Y.-H. (2015, January). The role of the harm avoidance personality in depression and anxiety during the medical internship. Medicine. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Apa Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from

Self-directed. SELF-DIRECTED definition | Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2023, from

The most effective treatment for severe bipolar disorder & addiction. American Addiction Centers. (2022, September 7). Retrieved March 6, 2023, from

Art work by:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: