This website works best using harmless anonymous cookies. Allow Don't allow More info

You have chosen not to allow cookies

Disabling cookies may give you a reduced experience of this website. Are you sure you want to disallow them? [Yes] [No]

This website will not use any non-essential cookies. However some pages include embedded content provided by 3rd party websites. This content may use cookies which we cannot control. We suggest you visit the websites for these providers to disable their cookies.

You Tube, Flickr, Vimeo, AmMap, Google, ShareThis, SurveyMonkey, Facebook

Bipolar Disorder:Where are all the Sucess Stories?

Katherine Taylor

Spectrum Centre, Lancaster University

Bipolar disorder; where are all the success stories?

Co-authors: Michel Syrett (MDF the Bipolar Organisation), Steve Jones and Fiona Lobban (Spectrum Centre)


Bipolar disorder (BD) is widely known as disruptive and disabling and is documented by the WHO as the 6th leading cause of disability in the world. However, it is also established that good outcome is achievable in a large proportion of those diagnosed.

Much of bipolar disorder is hidden; 50% of those who meet criteria are undiagnosed, outside living beyond the attention of services and therefore the scope of research. There is much evidence for a substantial proportion of those who have been diagnosed and longer use mental health services. Even amongst clinical samples likely to bias findings towards the negative end of the spectrum, most outcome studies find almost half achieve good outcome.  They then focus on associated disadvantages and problems, and typically report this sizeable proportion with good outcome as "only 41%" (Goldberg, Harrow et al. 1995; 2002). A skewed evidence base results from clinical studies recruiting from healthcare settings, where by definition people are struggling. Very few studies focus on resilience and recovery.  This presents challenges for educators, seeking to provide students with a balanced understanding of bipolar disorder and to equip them to provide appropriate support. Given that there may be students with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in any given teaching session, positive approaches to the teaching of this subject are essential.  

At the Spectrum Centre at Lancaster University, research is being undertaken on two related themes: people with a diagnosis of BD who are able to function well, and the subjective experiences of those who see aspects of their BD in a positive light. It is hoped that, by engaging a broader range of participants and investigating subjects important to them, a better understanding of the full spectrum of bipolar experiences will result.   In this paper, the Spectrum Centre research will be presented.  Its implications will be explored for enhancing learning and teaching about bipolar disorder in particular, and for mental health curricula more generally.  Drawing on experience at the Cairn, the importance of service user and carer involvement in the development of teaching approaches and materials will be drawn out.