Bipolar Disorder is a two-edged sword: a qualitative study to understand the positive edge

J Affect Disord. 2012 Dec 10;141(2-3):204-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.03.001. Epub 2012 Apr 1.


Background: Bipolar Disorder (BD) can have highly detrimental effects on the lives of people with the diagnosis and those who care about them. However, growing evidence suggests that aspects of bipolar experiences are also highly valued by some people.

Method: We aimed to understand how participants with a diagnosis of BD made sense of what they took to be positive about their bipolar experiences. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used in the collection and analysis of data from 10 individuals in the UK.

Results: Positive aspects were numerous, highly valued and participants welcomed the opportunity to discuss them. Three important themes emerged: 1) Direct positive impact of bipolar experiences on everyday life including amplification of internal states, enhanced abilities and more intense human connectedness; 2) Lucky to be bipolar - the sense of having been given a special gift; 3) Relationship between the self and bipolar experiences. Limitations Given the small size, further research is needed to explore how widely positive aspects of BD are experienced.

Conclusions: These themes highlight the need to invite people to talk about the positive aspects of their bipolar experiences as well as the difficulties they face. This may help us to understand ambivalence to current treatment and to develop interventions that minimise the negative impacts, whilst recognising and potentially retaining some of the positives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Attitude*
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Young Adult