The purpose of this study is to review the current state of the literature reporting qualitative studies that depict the experiences of ‘symptoms’ and ‘having a diagnosis’ for people who have been given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The method attempted to combine empirical and discursive approaches and was strongly influenced by guidance from Paterson, Thorne, Canam, and Jillings (2001) on conducting a meta-review. Meta-data analysis was used to compare the studies and, subsequently, nine common themes emerged: ‘struggles with identity’, ‘loss of control’, ‘disruption, uncertainty and instability’, ‘negative impact of symptoms across life and the experience of loss’, ‘negative view of self’, ‘positive or desirable aspects of mania’, ‘struggling with the meaning of diagnosis’, ‘stigma’, and ‘acceptance and hope’. The meta-method explored and evaluated the qualitative methods that have been used to study this phenomenon, and the meta-theory considered the theoretical underpinnings and contributions of this research. The review concludes that an awareness of these themes could support clinical work with service-users and inform the development of relevant interventions such as interpersonal social rhythm therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Further qualitative research is recommended to extend this literature base and include a greater representation of men and people living in non-westernised countries.
A corrected version is available in EJOP, Vol, 9 Issue 3 (2013). In the following, original version, some section headings have not been processed correctly during production.