What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

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Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question, although researchers are continuing their quest to uncover more clues about the origins of bipolar disorder. Recent studies lean towards a theory that most mental illnesses are the result of genes in combination with a variety of other factors.

Genetic or Biological?

There may be physical differences in the brain structure of person suffering from bipolar disorder as compared to a healthy individual. According to study conducted in 2000 and reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, “two major areas of the brain contain 30 percent more cells that send signals to other brain cells” and that “the extra signal-sending cells may lead to a kind of overstimulation”.

Many researchers agree that bipolar disorder seems to be inherited. Studies performed on twins indicate that the identical twin of a person who has been diagnosed with the disorder is three times more likely than a fraternal twin to also suffer from the same condition. As well, the concordance rate, or that which occurs in both twins, is 80% for identical twins but only 16% in fraternal twins. The evidence seems to indicate that there is, at least, a genetic vulnerability for acquiring bipolar disorder symptoms.

There is also evidence that a link exists between neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine and psychological disorders in general. An imbalance in any of these substances may cause the severe mood swings associated with bipolar disorder. Other researchers have uncovered a possible connection between the sensitivity of receptors on nerve cells changing and the onset of symptoms. There has been success in some patients by treating manic depression with drugs which alter neurotransmitters, clearly illustrating that imbalances of these substances are part of the disorder’s origins.

Stress Triggers

Finally, stressful events can be attributed to the onset of bipolar disorder. Such events as the death of a loved one or being dismissed from a job can cause a great deal of stress and trigger a period of severe depression. At this point, biological processes in the bipolar patient take over, keeping active the mood swings which characterise the condition.

While there are no definitive answers as to the exact cause of bipolar disorder, it is assumed that genetics and biological occurrences in combination with stress are mostly to blame. With the regular advancement of available research tools, it is expected that the scientific community will continue to get nearer to the cause, and ultimately, the solution for those suffering from this illness.

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