What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Managing the swings between the mania and depression of bipolar disorder is difficult for both the person with bipolar and the loved ones and friends who are nearby. The exact cause of bipolar is unknown, yet researchers have found several factors that can influence the onset of the disorder.

While the predominant cause of bipolar disorder is the dysfunction of neurochemicals in the brain, it is also influenced by other biological influences, genetics, and environmental factors. Multiple factors can influence the onset and progression of bipolar disorder. By studying all of the possible influences that may cause bipolar, doctors may create the best treatment plan for patients.

Neurochemical Influences

Neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are influential in a variety of mood disorders and mental illnesses. Neurotransmitters transmit information between the brain cells. They are the brain’s chemical messengers. Researchers have found that in individuals with bipolar, their neurotransmitters are malfunctioning and not communicating correctly.

Genetic Influences

Bipolar disorder is not an inheritance that children want to receive from their parents, but it is a possibility. Bipolar disorder runs in families as genes are passed through generations. An individual has a 15 to 25 percent chance of developing bipolar if one of their parents had the disorder, and a 25 percent chance if both parents have it.

Researchers have found interesting connections in their studies of twins who have bipolar disorder. The greatest risk researchers found was if an individual’s identical twin has bipolar. If a non-identical twin has bipolar, then the other twin has a 25 percent chance of developing it. This percentage climbs higher if the twin is an identical twin.

Researchers have gleaned much information from studying twins with bipolar who had been adopted and raised by parents who were non-bipolar. For some individuals, this bipolar gene may remain dormant for years and then be activated by an outside environmental stressor.

Environmental Influences

While environmental influences are not the root cause of bipolar disorder, they provide many stressors and circumstances that may trigger the beginning of bipolar disorder for those who are susceptible. Some of the following have been found to trigger bipolar symptoms from depression to mania:

  • Substance abuse
  • Stress
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Divorce, loss of a job, or other devastating life impacts
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Excessive caffeine
  • Excessive medications

Finding the Balance Through Research

Studies reflect that bipolar disorder is surfacing earlier and earlier in the ages of individuals. Some researchers believe those trends appear because bipolar was not diagnosed as much as it should have been in the past.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is complex to research, given all the factors that can influence its onset and progression. Through future studies, researchers hope to further understand bipolar disorder and find ways to help those who suffer with it to manage their lives.

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