Staying well with bipolar disorder

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2005 Mar;39(3):187-93. doi: 10.1080/j.1440-1614.2005.01542.x.


Objective: The research aimed to investigate how people diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder avoided episodes of illness and managed to stay well. The research also examined the role that personal, social and environmental factors played in helping people with bipolar mood disorder to stay well.

Method: This project used a combination of qualitative research methods. The design contained three (3) components: recruitment from general community, preliminary written questionnaire and semistructured interviews. To meet the criteria for inclusion, the participant must have stayed well for the past 2 years. The two main analytical categories were 'stay well concept' and 'strategies to stay well'. The main category 'strategies to stay well' contained a number of subcategories. These subcategories were acceptance of diagnosis, mindfulness, education, identify triggers, recognize warning signals, manage sleep and stress, make lifestyle changes, treatment, access support, and stay well plans.

Results: 100 people were eligible for inclusion in the study. The sample included 63 women and 37 men. The ages ranged from 18 to 83 years, with 86% over the age of 30. Duration of time since last episode of illness ranged from 2 years to >50 years. In the sample, 76% of participants were in paid employment. In addition, 36% of participants were parents. Participants actively managed bipolar disorder by developing a range of strategies to stay well. These strategies were based on participants' individual needs and social contexts. The strategies included acceptance of the diagnosis, education about bipolar disorder, identifying both triggers and warning signals, adequate amounts of sleep, managing stress, medication and support networks.

Conclusion: Staying well involved participants being mindful of their illness, which enabled them to develop an individual stay-well plan, including intervention strategies to prevent episodes of illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bipolar Disorder / epidemiology
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Sick Role*
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support
  • Victoria / epidemiology