Life is hard : the lived experience of adults with bipolar disorder and comorbid substance use disorder

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Terry D. Ward (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Susan Letvak

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this study is to understand and describe the lived experience of adult bipolar patients with comorbid substance use disorder. About 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year, have bipolar disorder (NIMH, 2006). Substance use in patients with mental illness is prevalent and of national interest. Of particular concern is the high incidence of comorbid substance use in the bipolar population because co-occurring substance use in patients with bipolar disorder changes the illness presentation increasing the incidence and severity of manic or depressive symptoms (Frye & Sallolum, 2006). Methods: A descriptive phenomenological approach was used. In-depth interviews were conducted with twelve adults. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Field notes were taken during the interviews and incorporated into written transcripts. Data were analyzed using Colazzi's method. Significant statements were highlighted and placed into broad categories, which were then organized into themes. Findings were presented back to study participants to confirm that the findings represent their lived experiences. Findings: Six distinctive themes were developed and validated by the descriptions of the experiences of the participants. The six themes that emerged from analysis of formulated meanings were: (1) It is hard; (2) Feeling the effects; (3) Trying to escape; (4) Spiritual support; (5) Being pushed beyond the limits; and (6) A negative connotation. All six themes emerged from a phenomenologic analysis of all participants' stories. No one theme was dominant but all the themes came from the interconnection of bipolar disorder and substance use disorder, or being dually diagnosed. Implications/Conclusions: Findings from this study have implications for nursing practice, research and education. If nursing and health care professionals understand the problem as these patients' perceive it, management of mood swings and relapses from periods of sobriety along with selection of treatment modalities will be improved.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Bipolar disorder, Colazzi, Phenomenology, Qualitative, Substance use disorder
Manic-depressive illness.
Substance abuse.
Mentally ill $z United States $v Interviews.
Mentally Ill $z United States $v Personal Narratives.
Qualitative research.

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