Objectives: Bipolar disorder (BD) is considered a severe and lifelong mental health diagnosis. However, there is growing evidence of people defying the odds and recovering. Processes underlying recovery remain poorly understood. The study aimed to explore these recovery processes and extend on the length of recovery defined within previous research.
Design: Qualitative methodology using grounded theory to analyze personal accounts of recovery.
Methods: Twelve people previously diagnosed with BD who had not experienced an episode of depression and/or mania for four or more years, were interviewed. Standardised diagnostic interviews (SCID-RV) confirmed past diagnosis and recovery time.
Results: The analysis revealed ten overarching categories of what participants reported to be important in their recovery: support; recognition of the problem; believing that things can change and not giving up; instinctive curiosity; medication; psychological therapy; becoming the director of your own life; changing how I think; accepting who I am and how I feel; and looking after me. A model was developed to represent how categories were related.
Conclusions: The main clinical relevance of the research is that following a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, people do experience long-term recovery achieved through self-determined pathways and that being able to live the life you want is therefore achievable. This challenges current diagnostic perspectives and societal messages of lifelong conditions.