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Exploring men’s experiences and sense-making of Bipolar Disorder diagnoses and mood management: A photo-elicitation investigation

Burman, Craig J, Dempsey, Robert C and Priest, Helena M (2022) Exploring men’s experiences and sense-making of Bipolar Disorder diagnoses and mood management: A photo-elicitation investigation. Clinical Psychologist. ISSN 1328-4207

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Abstract

Objective: Men’s experiences of living with and managing the symptoms associated with Bipolar Disorder are poorly understood. There is also a lack of qualitative studies focused on men’s experiences of Bipolar Disorder despite the clinical importance of this understanding for successfully supporting men to live well and manage mood symptoms. Method: This qualitative study used a photo-elicitation approach to explore how men made sense of managing their mood symptoms when living with Bipolar Disorder. Six participants took photographs representing their experiences of managing their diagnosis and mood symptoms, which formed the basis of in-depth participant-led semi-structured interviews. Results: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis identified four themes: (1) ‘managing symptoms: living with the enemy’; (2) ‘we’re not just managing mood episodes’; (3) ‘managing goes beyond a list of strategies’; and (4) ‘medication is a necessary evil’. Common across the sample’s experiences was the importance of accommodating the disruption caused by mood-related triggers and symptoms. Notably, explicit descriptions of masculinity or male identity were absent from the participants’ sense-making. Conclusions: Findings support a clinical focus on promoting idiosyncratic recoveries and living well, focusing on life beyond symptom reduction and relapse prevention, and facilitating ‘sense making’ of men’s Bipolar diagnoses and experiences in practice.

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