Date of Conferral





Human Services


Tracey Phillips


Individuals who experience bipolar disorder may have difficulty acquiring and maintaining relationships due to the stigma associated with mental illness. The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to examine the attitudes and perceptions of African American men and women regarding their experiences of dating and relationships with individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder. The theory used in this study was equity theory. The research question for this study explored how African American adults experience relationship acquisition and maintenance with a partner who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For this generic qualitative study, there were 12 respondents. Participants were African American adults who had dated or been in a relationship with an individual diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Themes that emerged from this study were sense of relief, sense of fear, unmodified affection, benefits of the relationship, resolution of unfair situations, reluctance to participate in a relationship with an individual diagnosed with bipolar disorder again, and race intensified the relationship. The participants associated acquisition, or the early stages of the relationship, with challenges, especially if they were unaware of the diagnosis in the beginning and could not explain certain behaviors. The results of this study can be used to promote understanding about bipolar disorder and the impact of mental illness on relationships.