Experts do not know precisely what causes bipolar disorder, but if a person has a sibling or parent with this condition, they are more likely to have it.
Although experiences vary from one person to another, bipolar disorder can cause extreme upheaval in an individual’s life, affecting both personal and professional relationships.
Many factors contribute to bipolar disorder, but genetic factors are the most prevalent.
People are not born with bipolar disorder, but genetics play a significant part in its development. People with bipolar disorder may also have a family member with the condition.
In one older review article, researchers found a strong familial component in bipolar disorder. A child who has a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder has a 5–10% chance of developing the condition themselves. A person who has an identical twin with bipolar disorder has up to a 70% chance of developing the condition themselves.
On the other hand, the chance of developing bipolar disorder among individuals with no family history of it is incredibly low — between 0.5% and 1.5%.
According to medical experts, bipolar disorder can also skip generations.
Bipolar disorder is a complex condition, and scientists do not fully understand the role that genes play. A combination of many different genes likely increases a person’s chance of developing this condition.
Genetics are not the only factor that can lead to the development of bipolar disorder. Genes work in tandem with environmental conditions such as stress and lifestyle habits.
In a 2019 review of studies, researchers looked at the effects of sleep deprivation on people with bipolar disorder. They found that a lack of sleep can trigger manic episodes. Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle is, therefore, a crucial step in stabilizing bipolar disorder symptoms.
Excessive use of substances such as alcohol and drugs can also trigger bipolar disorder symptoms, such as mania and depression. Around 56% of people with bipolar disorder have a history of substance misuse.
Sometimes, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder follows an extremely stressful or traumatic event. Stress does not cause bipolar disorder, but it can trigger episodes of mood changes in certain individuals.
Some of the most common life stressors that can trigger symptoms include:
- changing jobs or losing a job
- experiencing a death in the family
- going to college
- going through a divorce
Numerous treatment options can help improve well-being by managing the symptoms.
Medication is the most common treatment modality. Doctors often prescribe mood stabilizers to prevent depressive and manic episodes.
Psychotherapy is another treatment protocol. It helps people identify and change their problematic emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Mental health professionals can help a person manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
However, it is important to note that people may have difficulty engaging in or benefiting from psychotherapy during a manic episode.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another widely used therapy technique that helps individuals change their thought patterns and behaviors.
According to the American Psychological Association, CBT helps people recognize thought patterns that create problems and rethink them realistically.
CBT sessions may including strategies such as learning not to avoid fears, preparing for problematic interactions with others through role-play, and learning techniques to stay calm.
CBT can help people by teaching them to:
- clearly identify problems
- challenge incorrect assumptions
- distinguish between irrational thoughts and facts
- understand how past experiences affect feelings and beliefs
- stop fearing the worst
- focus on the present reality instead of how one thinks it should be
- develop more positive thought patterns
Brain stimulation procedures, such as electroconvulsive transcranial magnetic stimulation, can help treat severe depressive and manic episodes when medication and talk therapy are not effective.
People with bipolar disorder may not realize that they have the condition, even if their manic or depressive behavior disrupts their lives.
Once a doctor diagnoses the condition, people should regularly consult with them to evaluate the effectiveness of their treatment.
People with bipolar disorder should call 911 or a local emergency number if they have thoughts of suicide or self-harm. A person can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255.
Although there is a strong genetic component to bipolar disorder, it is not the only factor.
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging. However, with certain lifestyle changes, medications, and talk therapy, it is possible to manage the symptoms and lead a full, happy, and productive life.