Aspects of control and substance use among middle-aged and older adults with bipolar disorder

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2018 Apr;27(2):833-840. doi: 10.1111/inm.12371. Epub 2017 Jul 28.


High prevalence rates of alcohol and substance use disorders have been reported among persons with bipolar disorder (BD). In the present study, we explored the daily experiences of middle-aged and older adults living with BD who reported regular substance use and the ways in which participants expressed 'control' in relation to their use of alcohol and other substances. Semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 participants (nine women and three men), aged 36-57 years of age (mean = 49 years). Thematic analyses identified emergent themes and patterns in participants' life histories. The theme of 'control' emerged as central to participants' reports, and was organized into four categories: (i) substance use to control BD symptoms; (ii) substance use provides a sense of being in control; (iii) methods of controlled substance use; and (iv) not having control: overreliance on substances. Implications of the present study include the need for nurses to openly discuss the use of alcohol and other drugs with persons with BD, provide health information and screening, and determine whether persons with BD feel they have control over their substance use. Several lines of research with persons who have BD and use substances are suggested.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; control; middle-aged adult; nurse; older adult; substance use.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Control / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology