Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Social Work

Major Professor

Alison Salloum, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mary Armstrong, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Guitele Rahill, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nan Sook Park, Ph.D.


mental illness, stigma, identity development, interpersonal relationships


While early-onset bipolar disorder (EOBD) has increased in prevalence, much remains to be understood about its phenomenology. Research and treatment models remain rooted in neurobiological conceptualizations of the illness that borrow heavily from models for the traditional adult-onset form of bipolar disorder. This study utilized a transcendental phenomenological design as a first step in obtaining an understanding of the lived experience of EOBD. A purposive sample of eight participants ages 18-25 participated in semi-structured interviews that elicited information on experiences of EOBD symptomatology and course of illness, stigma, experience with healthcare and treatment, and impact on identity, interpersonal relationships, and coping responses. Transcendental phenomenological analysis was used to construct individual and composite descriptions of participants’ experience of EOBD between ages 13 and 17. Implications of findings are presented for research and treatment of EOBD, as well as social work education and policy reform.

Included in

Social Work Commons