Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 87 Issue 3 (September 2014), Pages 253-371

Discrepancies between explicit and implicit self‐esteem and their relationship to symptoms of depression and mania (pages 311-323)


Self‐esteem is a key feature of bipolar symptomatology. However, so far no study has examined the interaction between explicit and implicit self‐esteem in individuals vulnerable to bipolar disorder.


Cross‐sectional design was employed.


Thirty children of parents with bipolar disorder and 30 offspring of control parents completed Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, the Bech‐Rafaelson Mania Scale, the Self‐esteem Rating Scale and the Implicit Association Test.


No differences between groups were revealed in levels of explicit or implicit self‐esteem. However, bipolar offspring showed increased levels of symptoms of depression and mania. Furthermore, depressive symptoms were associated with low explicit self‐esteem, whilst symptoms of mania were associated with low implicit self‐esteem. When self‐esteem discrepancies were examined, damaged self‐esteem (i.e., low explicit but high implicit self‐esteem) was associated with depression, whilst no associations between mania and self‐esteem discrepancies were found.


Not only explicit, but also implicit self‐esteem, and the interactions between the two are of relevance in bipolar symptoms. Clinical implications and future research directions are discussed.

Practitioner points

  • Explicit as well as implicit SE, and particularly their relationship, are relevant for mental health.
  • Fluctuations in implicit SE may serve as an early indicator for risk of bipolarity.
  • Psychotherapeutic approaches may be more suitable for one kind of SE challenge than the other.

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