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Is Bipolar Hereditary?

What is Bipolar Disorder?


Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that involves the presence of mania and depression. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder wherein a person experiences heightened energy levels, mood and cognition with episodes of depression. It is called bipolar disorder because patients usually experience opposite poles of mood—being too active and elevated to being depressed at certain points in time. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive disorder or bipolar affective disorder. Mania is the term that describes a heightened mood, level of energy and cognition wherein the person has a very high energy level that may keep him or her awake for prolonged periods of time. Depression, on the other hand, is a state of detachment and feeling of intense sadness. Mania and depression often comes along between normal moods. However, in some individuals, mania and depression rapidly alternate. This condition is called rapid cycling.

Bipolar heriditary

The diagnosis of bipolar disorder usually depends on the severity of manic episodes.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on the stage that the patient is in. Stages of mood changes include depressive mode, mania, hypomania or mixed episodes. Signs and symptoms include:

Depressive mode

  1. Sadness
  2. Guilt
  3. Anxiety
  4. Isolation
  5. Anger
  6. Hopelessness
  7. Fatigue
  8. Anhedonia or lack of enjoyment
  9. Sleep disturbance
  10. Loss of appetite
  11. Poor concentration
  12. Apathy
  13. Indifference
  14. Loneliness
  15. Delusions
  16. Hallucinations

Manic Episode

  1. Elevated mood
  2. Euphoria
  3. Increased energy levels
  4. Decreased need for sleep (some patients do not sleep for 24 to 48 hours)
  5. Pressured speech
  6. Short attention span
  7. Impaired judgment
  8. Aggression
  9. Being Intrusive
  10. Feeling of being unstoppable
  11. Psychotic episodes


  1. Mild to moderate manic episodes
  2. Optimism
  3. Decreased need for sleep
  4. Pressured speech
  5. Hypersexuality
  6. Absence of psychotic behaviors

Mixed episodes

  1. Tearfulness during mania
  2. Racing thoughts together with depression

Mixed episodes are more severe because during this stage, the patient may have suicidal thoughts, panic disorder and substance abuse.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder: Does Heredity Have a Place?

Causes of bipolar disorder may vary among individuals, but it largely depends on environmental factors and genetics. Genetics have played a part in the occurrence of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder involves a chromosomal mutation that affects the genes associated with dopamine, serotonin and glutamate pathways. These considerably lead to mood changes because of an imbalance in the production of these neurotransmitters. Gene linkage of bipolar disorder was found in 1969. Because of gene linkage, it was then concluded that bipolar can be hereditary, however, not all offspring may suffer and not all parents with bipolar disorder can have a child with this disorder because some factors, such as the social environment, also predispose the occurrence of bipolar disorder. Environmental factors include stressful events, inability to cope up with problems, emotional and psychological trauma, and experience of abuse and sexual assaults. Even with the presence of the genetic link to bipolar, when the person is not subjected to emotional and stressful life events, then the disorder may not develop. In fact, most patients with bipolar disorder have previous problems in relationships and life events rather than those who only have a genetic predisposition. Environmental factors are most often the trigger for developing bipolar disorder.

Another important consideration for the development of bipolar in offspring is when the father is older at time of conception because various gene mutations have already occurred throughout his lifespan.

Parents with bipolar disorder should have genetic counseling to help prepare them for any presence of bipolar disorder in their children. It is also important that parents without the disorder provide a positive environment for their children with or without a genetic predisposition.

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