Objectives: Several quantitative studies have now examined the relationship between quality of life (QoL) and bipolar disorder (BD) and have generally indicated that QoL is markedly impaired in patients with BD. However, little qualitative research has been conducted to better describe patients’ own experiences of how BD impacts upon life quality. We report here on a series of in-depth qualitative interviews we conducted as part of the item generation phase for a disease-specific scale to assess QoL in BD. Methods: We conducted 52 interviews with people with BD (n=35), their caregivers (n=5) and healthcare professionals (n=12) identified by both convenience and purposive sampling. Clinical characteristics of the affected sample ranged widely between individuals who had been clinically stable for several years through to inpatients who were recovering from a severe episode of depression or mania. Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically. Results: Although several interwoven themes emerged from the data, we chose to focus on 6 for the purposes of this paper: routine, independence, stigma and disclosure, identity, social support and spirituality. When asked to prioritize the areas they thought were most important in determining QoL, the majority of participants ranked social support as most important, followed by mental health. Conclusions: Findings indicate that there is a complex, multifaceted relationship between BD and QoL. Most of the affected individuals we interviewed reported that BD had a profoundly negative effect upon their life quality, particularly in the areas of education, vocation, financial functioning, and social and intimate relationships. However, some people also reported that having BD opened up new doors of opportunity.
Bipolar disorder (BD)Quality of life (QoL)Qualitative