Are Bipolar Disorders Genetic? A Closer Look

What is bipolar disorder? Are bipolar disorders genetic? Find out in this comprehensive article.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder causes mood to drastically shift between ups (mania) and downs (depression). There are three main types of bipolar disorder—bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Are bipolar disorders genetic? What causes bipolar disorder? How do you get diagnosed? This article will provide answers and further details about bipolar disorder.

are bipolar disorders genetic

What Are Manic Episodes?

Manic episodes in bipolar disorder are periods of intense, elevated, or irritable mood lasting at least one week. During a manic episode, an individual may experience the following symptoms:
  • Increased energy, restlessness, or hyperactivity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Rapid speech or racing thoughts
  • Impulsivity or poor judgment
  • Increased self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as excessive spending or reckless driving
Individuals with less severe bipolar disorder experience hypomania. Hypomanic episodes involve the same symptoms as mania but are less extreme.

What Are Depressive Episodes?

Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder are periods of persistent sadness, hopelessness, or loss of interest lasting at least two weeks. An individual during a depressive episode may experience the following symptoms:
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
If you’re wondering are bipolar disorders genetic, watching out for any of these symptoms will help catch bipolar early on.

What Are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorders?

The type of bipolar disorder can affect the symptoms and severity. The main three types of bipolar are:1
  • Bipolar I: This is the most severe form of bipolar disorder. It consists of manic episodes that last at least one week and depressive episodes that last at least two weeks. Bipolar I symptoms can be extreme, often resulting in hospitalization. 
  • Bipolar II: This form of bipolar disorder is less severe than bipolar I. Bipolar II still has defined ups and downs, but they will usually be shorter, and the symptoms won’t be as harsh. Individuals with this bipolar type experience hypomania instead of mania.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Cyclothymia is the least severe of the three. It consists of symptoms of mania and depression, but they don’t last long enough to be considered full manic or depressive episodes.
When diagnosing bipolar disorder, treatment professionals need to consider the symptoms of each bipolar type that occur. That will help provide the best level of treatment along with the common factors like the question of are bipolar disorders genetic.

What Does the Diagnostic Process for Bipolar Disorder Look Like?

If you are wondering are bipolar disorders genetic, you may also want to know how bipolar disorder is diagnosed. For an accurate diagnosis, a medical professional will conduct a mental and physical assessment. They will also ask about the individual’s symptoms, personal and family medical history, and other factors in their life.

Most medical professionals use the DSM-5 criteria to diagnose bipolar. The DSM-5 is a series of questions and symptoms that help determine if someone is struggling with a mental health condition and the severity of the condition.

Are Bipolar Disorders Genetic?

Studies have found that bipolar disorder and genetics have a strong connection. In fact, 80% of cases of bipolar disorder are linked to genetic factors in some way. If you have a family history of bipolar, it is a considerable risk factor.2
So, are bipolar disorders genetic? The short answer is yes. However, genetics isn’t the only contributing factor.

What Factors Contribute to Developing Bipolar Disorder?

When wondering are bipolar disorders genetic, there are several risk factors you have to consider. The most common risk factors for developing bipolar disorders include:
  • Genetics and family history of bipolar
  • Past trauma or abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Substance abuse
The next sections will break down the research for each of these risk factors.

How Are Bipolar Disorders Genetic?

Several studies evaluating how are bipolar disorders genetic have indicated a significant correlation between genetics and the likelihood of developing the condition. To get more technical, the two specific genes linked to bipolar disorder are:3
  • ODZ4 (teneurin transmembrane protein 4)
  • NCAN (neurocan)
Some tests can help determine if someone possesses one of these genes. So if you’re wondering are bipolar disorders genetic or looking to determine if you have a genetic disposition to develop a bipolar disorder, resources are available.
The gender of the parent with bipolar disorder also contributes to the likelihood of developing the condition. According to multiple studies, mothers with the disorder are more likely to pass it on to their children than fathers.4

Should You Undergo Testing if You Have a Family History of Bipolar Disorder?

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar or want to know if you’re at risk, you can talk to your doctor about genetic testing.

However, even if you possess one of these genes, it isn’t set in stone that you will develop bipolar disorder. You can take precautions, like living a healthy lifestyle and keeping tabs on your mental well-being.

How Trauma, Abuse, and Childhood Neglect Can Contribute to Bipolar Disorder

Along with considering are bipolar disorders genetic, other risk factors include trauma, abuse, and neglect. One study from 2016 found a strong link between childhood trauma and developing bipolar disorder later in life. Researchers discovered that how childhood trauma affects the brain can activate certain mechanisms that cause symptoms of bipolar.5
Traumatic stress can also increase the likelihood of developing bipolar. A nationwide study found that the risk was highest within the first year of experiencing trauma, but there was still a high chance within the first five years post-trauma.6
So, not only are bipolar disorders genetic, but environmental factors influence them as well. Studies like these show why proper treatment for traumatic experiences is important.

How Substance Abuse Contributes to Bipolar Disorder

Studies haven’t conclusively proven that substance abuse can make someone more likely to develop bipolar. However, there is a strong link between co-occurring bipolar and substance use disorders. Research has found that 40% of those diagnosed with bipolar also struggle with substance abuse.7
The common link between substance use and mental health is why dual-diagnosis treatment is essential.
are bipolar disorders genetic

Get Help for Bipolar Disorder at Advaita Integrated Medicine

For those wondering are bipolar disorders genetic or looking to get help with bipolar disorder, Advaita Integrated Medicine has many helpful resources available. Advaita Integrated Medicine is a mental health and addiction treatment center based in Raleigh, North Carolina. We provide treatment to individuals in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and surrounding areas like Apex, Clayton, and Wake Forest.

At Advaita Integrated Medicine, we understand the importance of making each individual feel welcomed and at home during treatment. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be with you throughout the process to make treatment as comfortable as possible.

Treatment at Advaita Integrated Medicine

Our programs can help you achieve success. We use holistic practices to treat the whole person, not just the disorder. That means we will consider everything about you, such as past experiences, life stressors, family history, and other possible conditions. This allows us to provide well-rounded, personalized treatment and resources.

To get more information on how Advaita Integrated Medicine can help with bipolar, contact us today.

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Reach out to Advaita Integrated Medicine today and let us guide you toward a full and rewarding life uninhibited by mental health or substance use disorder challenges. We are here to support you every step of the way.
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