Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can disrupt a person’s life and ability to function. If a parent has bipolar disorder, there are things a child can consider to help them feel safe and encourage a stable home life.

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Maintaining a stable home life is important for children. It can make them safe and supported, and it can help avoid the adverse effects that an unstable home life may bring. However, for a parent managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, fostering a stable environment may be difficult.

A parent with bipolar disorder may wish to consider counseling for both themselves and their children. This can help prevent bipolar disorder symptoms from disrupting the lives of immediate family members, such as children.

Understanding the points below can help both young and adult children of a parent with bipolar disorder.

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It is important that the child of a parent with bipolar disorder understands their parent’s mental health condition is not anyone’s fault.

Keeping their parent’s condition in perspective may help prevent children from blaming themselves when the parent is experiencing symptoms. People with bipolar disorder may exhibit symptoms of mania or depression, depending on the particular form of their illness.

During a manic episode, a parent with bipolar disorder may lash out at their child or become angry easily. During a depressive episode, the parent may seem uninterested in their loved ones.

In either case, it is helpful for children to understand that these behaviors are symptoms of their parent’s mental health condition and not a reflection of their own actions.

As a 2020 study suggests, children living with parents who have serious mental health conditions are at an increased risk of poor mental, physical, and emotional health. These issues may stem from instability at home.

Children who experience an unstable home life may be more prone to certain issues, such as:

  • relationship difficulties
  • emotional distress
  • health issues
  • high stress levels
  • anxiety disorders

In a 2019 study, adult children of parents with mental health conditions highlighted the following as key challenges:

  • no reference point for parenting
  • lack of informal social support

Living with a parent who has bipolar disorder may come with challenges. However, learning more about a parent’s condition and using available resources may help children manage these.

Keeping communication open may help ease tension and prevent the child from developing resentment toward their parent.

The parent should feel comfortable communicating with their child when they are having difficulty managing their symptoms. The child should also feel comfortable asking about their parent’s symptoms and being honest about how they feel in the moment.

Alternatively, the parent might consider nominating another supportive person in the child’s life who can support and explain potential challenges to them in age-appropriate terms.

Talking with a third party, such as a counselor or therapist, may also help the children of parents with bipolar disorder understand and process the issues they experience.

It is natural for a child whose parent has bipolar disorder to have questions about the condition and how it affects those around them. A person may benefit from taking these questions to a specialist and talking through them.

Some common questions a child may ask about a parent with bipolar disorder include the following.

How can I tell if my parent is having a manic or depressive episode?

Some common signs may indicate when a parent is experiencing either type of episode.

During a manic episode, a person may show signs that include:

  • talking quickly or changing the subject quickly
  • being more energetic than usual
  • having a difficult time sleeping or sleeping very little
  • getting distracted easily
  • going on excessive shopping sprees

During a depressive episode, a person may be:

  • sleeping more than usual
  • feeling sad or having emotional outbursts
  • staying home from work
  • avoiding friends and social activities
  • talking less than usual

Is this my fault?

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that has nothing to do with the person’s family or friends. It is a chronic condition that may change over time or respond to treatment in different ways.

A child’s behavior does not contribute in any way to the condition or the episodes and symptoms their parent experiences.

Is this going to happen to me?

There is a link between having a parent with bipolar disorder and developing the disorder.

A 2021 study estimates that bipolar disorder is about 44% heritable. This means that children whose parents have bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the condition themselves.

However, the possibility of not having bipolar disorder is still much higher than the likelihood of having it. Bipolar disorder cannot pass from person to person as with the common cold. It will not “rub off” on people with whom their parent interacts.

Does bipolar come from my parent’s mother or father?

It is unclear whether a person inherits bipolar disorder from their mother or father.

The genetics of bipolar disorder are complex and may involve various factors. More research is necessary to fully understand the genetic basis of the disorder.

Will my parent get better?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition. There is no cure, but many people can manage their symptoms effectively with proper treatment.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder. Although many people can manage their symptoms with treatment, they may still experience noticeable changes during episodes.

As a family member of someone with bipolar disorder, it is vital to keep lines of communication open.

Support may be one of the most essential factors for parents with bipolar disorder and their children. It is important for people not to be afraid to seek counseling for those with the condition and their loved ones. Working with a mental health specialist may help everyone involved manage their experience and allow them to stay close as a family.

Anyone who thinks a loved one may have undiagnosed bipolar disorder should consider asking them to talk with a doctor or mental health professional.