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BACKGROUND: Studies on self-representation in bipolar disorder have mainly focused on the single dimension of self-esteem and recruited patients either in episode or in remission. The aim of the study was to examine multi-dimensional aspects of the self (discrepancy between actual- and ideal-selves and between actual- and feared-selves) in a student sample with a history of significant experience of hypomania (with or without experience of major depression) as compared to healthy control students. METHODS: Bipolar students and healthy control students completed the Self-Discrepancy Questionnaire (SDQ: Carver, Lawrence, & Scheier, 1999). The degree of similarity to, and the perceived likelihood of ideal-self and feared-self characteristics were assessed. RESULTS: The difference between the groups in level of ideal-self similarity was at trend level. Students with prior hypomania but no history of depression showed higher similarity to their feared-self than healthy controls and also rated themselves as more likely to have these feared-self characteristics in the future. LIMITATION: The small sample size, especially in the bipolar group with no history of depression, limits the power of the study. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of ideal-self discrepancy was not convincingly demonstrated in this sample and it is possible that where it has been identified in previous studies it may, at least in part, represent a scar of previous episodes of depression or mania rather than a predisposing factor. However a sub-sample of students who had experienced hypomania in the absence of history of depression were distinguished from healthy controls in perceived closeness to the feared-self qualities. The feared-self concept warrants further investigation in bipolar patients.

Original publication




Journal article


J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry

Publication Date





135 - 139


Bipolar Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder, Humans, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Self Concept, Surveys and Questionnaires