Deficits in emotion perception and social functioning are strongly implicated in bipolar disorder (BD). Examining theory of mind (ToM) may provide one potential mechanism to explain observed socio-emotional impairments in this disorder. The present study prospectively investigated the relationship between theory of mind performance and life functioning in individuals diagnosed with BD compared to unipolar depression and healthy control groups.
Theory of mind (ToM) performance was examined in 26 individuals with remitted bipolar I disorder (BD), 29 individuals with remitted unipolar depression (UD), and 28 healthy controls (CTL) using a well-validated advanced theory of mind task. Accuracy and response latency scores were calculated from the task. Life functioning was measured during a 12 month follow-up session.
No group differences for ToM accuracy emerged. However, the BD group exhibited significantly shorter response times than the UD and CTL groups. Importantly, quicker response times in the BD group predicted greater life functioning impairment at a 12-month follow-up, even after controlling for baseline symptoms.