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A Gentle Touch: Emotions and Motivation in Bipolar Disorder

It's easy to blame yourself and get lost in negativity when you get off track. But if you have bipolar disorder, whipping yourself into shape may not be the best strategy. Instead, when your moods are not well regulated, it may be better to be gentle and get help getting back on track. Read More

As you said in the article"We

As you said in the article"We often think of it as a sign of good character when we can use our own emotions to guide our actions (i.e., to self-regulate). We don’t need to wait for someone or something to push us to act. When we don’t have problems with mood regulation, this makes sense. We can rely on satisfaction and pride to push us forward, and trust little doses of negative emotions will keep us on track.But in bipolar disorder, the story is different. Problems in mood regulation make it very difficult to use negative emotions as a motivating force", so how does someone who has a bipolar disorder motivate theirself without falling back on negative emotioins since the negative emotions only pull them farther away from their intended goal?

your comment

You asked how someone with bipolar disorder can motivate themselves, if relying on negative emotions might push them farther back. This is a good question. The answer depends in part on whether you believe you can do it - do you have a sense of self-efficacy? If you have some doubts about your ability to meet your goal, then you might need help. And the kind of help you need depends on what kind of goal it is.

For example, if the goal is to get your homework done, you can ask yourself - Can I really do this homework? Do I have the ability to shift my attention to the assignment? Is my concentration stable enough to do the reading? Do I know how to do the assignment? Can I manage my anxiety when it gets difficult? If you can't answer "yes" to those questions, you probably need some assistance. Just yelling at yourself won't help. You may need to see if you can get some help staying on task or some other kind of assistance from a teacher or friend or a therapist or psychiatrist.
It takes some skill and practice to figure out why things are difficult and why you are not reaching your goal. But if you can take an "engineering approach" and try to figure out why things aren't getting done and what kind of help you need, you actually end up being more independent and being more able to reach your goals.

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Elizabeth Brondolo, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at St. John’s University in Long Island, New York.

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