Does Coping matter?

Mr Sunny Chan joined us at the 2016 International Mental Health Conference on the Gold Coast and today shares his presentation ‘Does Coping Matter? The Additional Benefit of Coping in Psychosocial Interventions for People with Bipolar Disorder’. 

 Chan SHW (1), Tse S (1)

  • Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong


People with bipolar disorder (BD) frequently struggle with the recurrence of affective symptoms. Researchers have demonstrated the significant impact of life events in causing mood fluctuation. Although coping has been thoroughly studied previously, the focus was only placed on general stressors or prodromes but not life events. Thus, exploration how individuals with BD cope with life events is indicated in psychosocial interventions. By integrating the Behavioral Approach System (BAS) dysregulation theory and coping flexibility framework, this study aims to investigate the associations between BAS sensitivity level, psychosocial functioning level, coping flexibility, and mood states among people with BD after they are presented with BAS-activating life events.

Methodology: Using a cross-sectional study design, 90 participants with BD were recruited. Each individual was presented with four different BAS-activating life event scenarios and assessed with regard to their BAS trait sensitivity, psychosocial functioning level, coping flexibility, and mood states. A hierarchical clustering method was used to identify different styles of coping flexibility. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses were conducted in order to examine the mediating and moderating roles of different components of coping flexibility on mood states.


Findings showed that a low degree of coping flexibility, matched with low levels of both BAS sensitivity and psychosocial functioning should protect people with BD from detrimentally accentuating mood states when encountering BAS-activating life events. Specifically, adopting different coping dimensions (i.e., problem-focused vs. emotion-focused; behavioral-activation/emotion-amplifying vs. behavioral-deactivation/emotion-diminishing) for the clustering resulted in the identification of distinct pathways between BAS sensitivity and psychosocial functioning levels. Moreover, coping flexibility was also demonstrated to have mediating and moderating effects in explaining and alleviating the effects of BAS sensitivity and functioning level on mood states, respectively.


This study can have practical implications for the design or improvement of psychosocial interventions specifically for people with BD. Theoretically, this study helps integrate the concept of coping flexibility into the BAS dysregulation theory as it applies to mental illness.

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