PJ Media

Do Bipolar Youth Misread Faces?

Web MD points outa href=”http://www.webmd.com/content/article/122/114948?src=rss_webmdblogs” an interesting study /athat found that bipolar youth may see hostility even in faces that are neutral:br /br /blockquoteCompared with those without bipolar disorder, bipolar youths gave higher hostility ratings to the neutral faces and reported being more fearful of those faces, the study shows.br /br /While viewing the neutral faces, bipolar youths’ fMRI brain scans showed more activity in the left amygdala, a brain area related to fear, compared with the brain scans of nonbipolar participants.br /br /Which came first: bipolar disorder or seeing hostility in neutral faces? The study doesn’t answer that question. It also doesn’t show whether bipolar participants felt more irritable or aggressive after viewing neutral faces./blockquotebr /br /In my clincial experience, I often find that bipolar youth, particularly those who are aggressive, tend to misread social cues–that is, they perceive actual situations as worse than they are or read into people’s actions or expressions, more hostility and threatening behavior than is actually there. For example, if someone stares at them, they may perceive it as a threat rather than a look of curiosity. Often a youth who is poor at reading other people’s behavior will strike out aggressively in a case where aggression is not called for–whether that is because of fear or anger, or both is sometimes hard to tease out. Teaching youth who are bipolar or potentially aggressive to read faces, nonverbal movements and social interactions more clearly is a first step to teaching better coping skills.