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Chronic Illn. 2011 Sep;7(3):209-24. doi: 10.1177/1742395310395959. Epub 2011 Feb 28.

'It's something that I manage but it is not who I am': reflections on internalized stigma in individuals with bipolar disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Bipolar disorder (BD) is a complex chronic condition associated with substantial costs, both at a personal and societal level. Growing research indicates that experiences with stigma may play a significant role in contributing to the distress, disability, and poor quality of life (QoL) often experienced in people with BD. Here, we present a sub-set of findings from a qualitative study of self-management strategies utilized by high functioning Canadian individuals with BD. Specifically, we describe a theme relating to participants' experiences and understandings of internalized stigma. Descriptive qualitative methods were used including purposeful sampling and thematic analysis. High functioning individuals with BD type I or II (N = 32) completed quantitative scales to assess symptoms, functioning and QoL, and participated in an individual interview or focus group to discuss the self-management strategies that they use to maintain or regain wellness. Thematic analysis identified several themes, including one relating to internalized stigma. Within this, four additional themes were identified: stigma expectations and experiences, sense of self/identity, judicious disclosure, and moving beyond internalised stigma. One of the more unique aspects of the study is that it involves a participant sample that is managing well with their illness, which differs from the norm in biomedical research that typically focuses on pathology, problems and dysfunction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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