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The Common Causes of Bipolar Disorder

written by: Melinda F. • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 7/29/2010

Bipolar disorder occurs in men, women and children but the causes of bipolar disorder will vary with each individual. The most common causes include genetics, chemical imbalance in the brain and environmental factors. Let’s take a peek at these causes in greater detail.

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    According to DBSAlliance.org, bipolar disorder affects nearly 5.7 million Americans every year or approximately 2.6% of the U.S. population of those who are 18 years or older. Anti-psychotic medications and/or anti-depressants are used to treat this serious mental illness but how does it develop in the first place?

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    The Brain and Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar disorder occurs when there is a chemical imbalance in the brain or some kind of dysfunction with certain neurotransmitters. A few of the most notable neurotransmitters involved include norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine and probably several others as well. When there is any disruption in the brain there is a chance that any kind of mental disorder can develop.

    Bipolar disorder isn’t always a chronic condition and doesn't always develop early in life. Sometimes it may remain dormant for a number of months or even years until something triggers it to rise to the surface. Research is ongoing to determine exactly what happens inside the brain that causes somebody to develop this serious mental illness.

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    Genetic Factors

    One of the common causes of bipolar disorder lies in a person’s genetic makeup and bipolar disorder does tend to run in families. This does not mean that all family members will experience this illness but they can be more susceptible to it.

    According to PsychCentral.com a person who has a parent with bipolar disorder has a 15 to 25% chance of having the condition as well. If both parents have bipolar disorder there is a 25% chance that their children will develop the same disorder or a 50% chance that they will develop some kind of major psychiatric disorder. Those who have a twin with bipolar disorder are 8 times more likely to also develop the condition. As you can see that’s pretty solid proof that bipolar disorder can develop due to genetic factors.

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    Environmental Factors

    A traumatic life event could trigger bipolar disorder in those who are genetically predisposed to developing it. This can include violent acts, separation from a loved one or a loss of life. However, even those who don’t seem to have the genetic predisposition to develop bipolar disorder can still develop it themselves.

    Socioeconomic status can also be one of the common risk factors for bipolar disorder. Studies have shown that those who have a higher socioeconomic status are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder. One other interesting note is that those who are involved in creative arts have a 10 to 20% higher chance of developing this serious mental illness than those who are in the general population.

    Bipolar disorder is a serious psychiatric illness that has a high suicide rate among those who suffer from it. For this reason and more is why it’s so important to seek treatment if you or somebody you love may be suffering from bipolar disorder.

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    References

    WebMD.com: "Causes of Bipolar Disorder" http://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-causes

    Nimh.nih.gov: "Bipolar Disorder" http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml

    PsychCentral.com: "The Causes of Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)" http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/the-causes-of-bipolar-disorder-manic-depression/