Treatment nonadherence is a leading cause of poor outcomes among populations with bipolar disorder (BD) and is related to subjective experience of illness and treatment. This study examined gender differences in the experience of illness and treatment for those with BD, specifically in regards to treatment adherence. This cross-sectional analysis pooled data from 3 BD studies. A semistructured qualitative instrument, the Subjective Experience of Medication Interview, elicited information on subjective differences in treatment adherence between men and women. Men and women experience comparable levels of stigma and they comparably value lessened irritability and/or impulsivity because of medications. However, men and women differed in fear of weight gain because of medications, value of social support, and self-medication behaviors. Selected differences in subjective illness experience between men and women might be used to inform gender-sensitive approaches to enhance treatment adherence among populations with BD.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder, treatment adherence, gender differences