Living with Manic Experiences: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Jacobs, Emma Anne
Although psychological research into manic experiences is increasing, it remains an underresearched phenomenon. In particular, there is a dearth of qualitative research exploring these experiences in a clinical sample of people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This study examined six participants’ experiences of mania using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Through semi-structured interviews, the participants provided detailed accounts of how they made sense of and experienced their manic states. Three master themes were described: “A mixed relationship with mania,” “A separate and controlled self”, and “The struggle to be different.” The first master theme explored the participants’ mixed and ambivalent relationship with their manic experiences. These were viewed as both alluring and dangerous, but overall the perceived costs had outweighed the benefits, for all but one of the participants. Most participants described losses in relation to giving up their manic experiences, as well as losses related to the destructive consequences of their episodes. The second master theme examined perceptions of mania as a separate, uncontrollable phenomenon, over which they had little influence. It was hypothesised that these explanations served to relieve these participants from underlying negative emotions, such as guilt, regret, shame and selfstigma. The third master theme described how manic experiences had represented struggles to be different. These included a struggle against society; a struggle to experience a preferred self; and a struggle to access very unique experiences or abilities. A number of issues were discussed in relation to the above themes. These included positive and conflicting appraisals of high moods; loss; entrapment and helplessness; ambivalence; negative moral emotions and a preferred manic identity. A range of therapeutic approaches were suggested as potentially helpful for some of these issues. These included Motivational Interviewing, Narrative, Constructivist and Compassion therapies. Additionally, the findings of the study provided support for existing therapies for Bipolar Disorder; particularly Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal & Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT).