Identity of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder
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Zakład Psychologii Zdrowia, Instytut Psychologii Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego
Submission date: 2019-05-18
Final revision date: 2020-01-22
Acceptance date: 2020-02-12
Publication date: 2020-06-01
Corresponding author
Krzysztof Dyga   

Instytut Psychologii, Uniwersytet Jagielloński
Psychoter 2020;192(1):5-25
The objective of this research was to explore the contents of experiences associated with the identity of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BD).

Six semi-structured interviews were conducted with people over 30. Their transcripts were subject to interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).

The statements of the participants showed a complex picture of their struggles with identity in the course of BD. Attitudes towards diagnosis and treatment were a significant part of it. Half of the respondents expressed disagreement with the pathologization of bipolarity (which was part of their identity) and aggressive treatment resulting in, among others, the perceived reduction of intellectual capability which was one of the fundamental features of their identity. The remaining participants have accepted the current psychiatric narrative, being themselves mostly during remission and making efforts to stay in this state in accordance with the physician’s orders.

Regardless of the ways of understanding BD and the attitude to treatment, none of the participants had any critical issues related to his/her identity. Participants demonstrated high tolerance of uncertainty, presumably being a function of variables such as age and duration of the disorder, well-developed postformal thinking, and motivation to learn about themselves. Positive reformulations and a clear narrative about life with BD made its acceptance possible. In some of them, this meant approval of the received diagnosis, in others, it was the affirmation of bipolarity. None of the participants defined themselves through the role of the patient. Identity-related senses of continuity and cohesion were favored by not separating the healthy and ill aspects of oneself.

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