Understanding the Psychology of Bipolar Disorder

I am interested in understanding the role of psychological factors in the experience of, and vulnerability to, bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder is characterised by the experience of often severe, recurring mood swings, including the experience of mania and depression alongside other symptoms; however, many people with a bipolar diagnosis manage their symptoms very effectively and maintain a high quality of life.

My research in this area has been motivated by a dissatisfaction with the scientific understanding of the psychological factors implicated in the experience of bipolar disorder. I work from a ‘continuum’ or ‘spectrum’ conceptualisation of bipolar disorder, and I dislike reference to ‘abnormal experiences’ in the context of bipolar disorder – rather I consider the ‘bipolar spectrum’ to be inclusive of everyone and I am interested in understanding why some people experience more severe aspects of what is medically defined as ‘bipolar disorder’

Current collaborative work in this area includes understanding the experiences and predictors of suicidality in people living with bipolar disorder, as well as understanding the role of cognitive processes in the vulnerability to bipolar disorder.

Current projects
  • Understanding the role of appraisals of psychological and social factors in the experience of suicidal thoughts, feelings and behaviours for people living with bipolar disorder (Completed PhD Student Project – Rebecca Owen, with some in development papers).
  • Understanding the psychosocial processes associated with the vulnerability to bipolar disorder (e.g. reward sensitivity, autobiographical memory).
  • Understanding the nature of resilience and risk for bipolar disorder.
  • Exploring the nature of self and identity amongst people living with bipolar disorder (Co-supervised DClinPsy Trainee research project).
  • Understanding experiences of high moods and mood swings amongst Higher Education students. I am part of a collaborative study of university students’ experiences of changeable moods which will be launching a survey in January 2018 in collaboration with the StudentMinds mental health charity and colleagues at other universities (including Northumbria, Manchester, Reading, Glasgow, King’s College London, Exeter and Newcastle). We have just launched the first online national survey as part of this project.


Representative Publications


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