Narratives of Bipolar Disorder: Tensions in Definitional Thresholds

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Psychiatrists have been debating where the diagnostic boundaries of bipolar disorder should lie. The issue is whether the definitions of bipolar disorder are too broad or not inclusive enough. Another group grappling with bipolar disorder boundaries is those labeled with bipolar disorder. Knowing and managing the boundaries between normal and hypomanic or manic experience were challenging for a small group of qualitative research participants diagnosed as adults with bipolar disorder. Their difficulties navigating these boundaries affected every aspect of their lives. It is suggested that both of these boundary ambiguities reflect a tension in the larger American society involving bipolar disorder, one that both privileges and pathologizes hypomania and mania. These issues matter because of the continuing stigma of bipolar disorder.

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