"I don’t feel like I’m truly myself": Exploring the Impact of Bipolar II Disorder on Self-Identity using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
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Background: Bipolar II disorder has a prevalence rate of approximately 0.4% in adults and 1.5% in adolescents, with the onset typically around 18 years old (Merikangas & Lamers, 2012). As the age of onset is during adolescent years the impact on identity is of special interest. Although the profound impact bipolar has on an individual’s sense of self has surfaced as a predominant theme in the bipolar literature, there remains a dearth of research directly addressing this impact. Objectives: The present study aims to address this gap in the literature, by exploring the impact living with bipolar II disorder has on a person’s sense of self. Methods: Seven individuals recruited from Bipolar Scotland, five female and two male aged between 23-55years old, took part in a semi-structured interview. The study employed interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in an attempt to elicit concrete, experience-near, accounts. The analysis aimed to give the participants a voice; whilst offering readers an in-depth exploration of lived experiences of bipolar. Results: The analysis yielded four master themes: 1. Liminality: On the threshold of ‘normal’ and ‘mad’ captured participants’ ongoing struggle to negotiate a firm sense of identity and belonging; 2. ‘Going off kilter’: Unscrambling the self highlighted participants’ experiences of loss of self and being restricted by bipolar; 3. Paradoxical feelings towards being bipolar captured participants’ experiences of perceiving their bipolar as involving both sacrifices and gains; 4. Bipolar ‘it’s the boss not me’: Predictably unpredictable revealed participants’ experiences of losing control to their bipolar. Conclusion: The four master themes revealed the uncertainty and ambivalence which pervaded the participants’ experiences, demonstrating the profound impact bipolar II disorder has on an individual’s self-identity. The results provide invaluable insight into lived experiences of bipolar type II and can contribute to the understanding of this under researched complex disorder.