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The Causes of Bipolar Disorder

by Yvette Sajem
  • Overview

    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
    Bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a disabling, life-disrupting mental illness characterized by extreme shifts in mood, behavior, thinking and energy from high (manic) to low (depressive). It typically presents during adolescence or early adulthood; however, bipolar disorder is a chronic, life-long illness that must be carefully and diligently managed. No one is sure of the exact cause of bipolar disorder, but, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, most scientists agree that it is not the result of a single factor, but rather the outcome of a collision of biological, psychological and environmental elements.
  • Genetics

    Scientists have found that bipolar disorder has a hereditary component. According to a 2000 study conducted by J. I. Nurnberger Jr. and T. Foroud on the genetics of bipolar disorder, if you have a parent or a sibling with bipolar disorder, you are four to six times more likely to develop it than are people who have no family history of the illness. Researchers are working to isolate the gene or genes that may be connected to the development of bipolar disorder.
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
 
  • Brain Function and Structure

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, scientists are using techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brain structure of people with bipolar disorder. So far, there has been evidence to suggest that there is a difference between the brain structure of people with bipolar and other mental disorders and the brain structure of healthy people. In additional, according to the Mayo Clinic, an imbalance in brain neurotransmitters and hormones may play a role in the onset of bipolar disorder.
  • Life Events

    According to the Help Guide, life events involving major change--good or bad--may trigger bipolar disorder in people who are already genetically or biologically predisposed. Events such as the death of a loved one, losing a job, moving to new town, getting married, having a baby or going away to school could each play a role in the onset of a manic or depressive episode.
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
  • Psychological Factors

    If you have certain psychological vulnerabilities you may be at higher risk for bipolar disorder. According to the Centre for Clinical Intervention in Australia, if you have poor coping skills, your inability to psychologically handle and recover from a stressful event may trigger the onset of a manic or depressive episode. In addition, the Mayo Clinic suggests that low self-esteem and a negative thinking pattern may contribute to the onset of bipolar disorder in predisposed individuals.
  • Other Risk Factors

    According to the Help Guide, there are certain risk factors that, while not a direct cause of bipolar disorder, can contribute to its onset or exacerbate an already existing condition. The legitimate use of prescription or over-the-counter medications, or the abuse of alcohol or illegal narcotics have been known to set off a manic episode. In addition, if you are sleep deprived, even by just a few hours, this may be enough to trigger mania.
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder
    The Causes of Bipolar Disorder

    References & Resources