Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder causes a range of symptoms that can be
distressing and disruptive to your life. It was formerly known as
manic-depressive illness. It’s a chronic condition that affects the brain causing
highs and lows in mood, behavior, energy, and activity. The manic highs and
depressive lows give the condition its name.
There’s no cure, but with medication and treatment, people with
the disorder can thrive. The National
Alliance on Mental Illness estimates there are more than 10 million
Americans living with the condition. There is no known cause of bipolar
disorder but there are certain risk factors
What Population is Most At Risk?
According to the National
Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly half of all people with the
disorder are diagnosed by the age of 25. Men and women are affected equally by
the disorder. Symptoms usually occur in older teenagers or young adults, but it
can also develop at older ages.
What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
Symptoms of bipolar disorder include high moods (mania) and
low moods (depression) that can vary in intensity and length. Sometimes
psychosis can be involved. This is when the person sees or hears things that
are not there, or has delusions of grandeur (i.e., thinking they are the
Symptoms of mania include:
- rapid speech
- lack of concentration
- high sex drive
- decreased need for sleep yet increased energy
- increase in impulsivity
- drug or alcohol abuse
Symptoms of depression include:
- loss of energy
- feeling hopeless
- trouble concentrating
- trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- appetite changes
- thoughts of death or suicide, or attempting
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
No one single risk factor means you will develop bipolar
disorder. Scientists believe that multiple risk factors work together to
trigger the illness. More research needs to be done to discover the specific
risk factors and causes of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Children with a
parent or sibling with the disorder have a higher chance of developing it than
those without affected family members.
Identical twins don’t have the same risk of developing the
illness. It’s likely that genes and environment work together in developing the
Sometimes a stressful event like a loss or a medical problem
can trigger a person’s bipolar disorder. This can cause them to experience a
manic or depressive episode.
Drug abuse might trigger bipolar disorder. According to the Cleveland
Clinic, 60 percent of individuals with the illness have dependence issues
on either drugs or alcohol. People with seasonal depression or anxiety
disorders may also be at risk for developing bipolar disorder.
Scans like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and
positron emission technology (PET) scans provide pictures of the brain. Certain
findings on these scans have been associated with bipolar disorder. More
research is needed to see how these findings specifically impact bipolar
disorder and what this means for treatment and diagnosis.
According to the NIMH,
brain development patterns in children have been linked to unstable moods and
Can Risk Factors Be Avoided?
While there isn’t a single cause of bipolar disorder, there
are certain factors that may increase your risk. If your family has a history
of bipolar disorder, pay attention to any symptoms you may have and discuss
them with your doctor. If you are experiencing extreme stress and think that it
may link to bipolar disorder, consult your doctor.
More research is needed to pinpoint a cause of the disorder.
Pay attention to these factors for a better understanding of your risk.