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Bipolar Disorder (Children and Adolescents)

The Genetic and Other Influences of Bipolar Disorder

03/29/2007

Question:

I am currently in a relationship with a guy whose mom has acute biopolar mania. We are starting to think about marriage, but I am concerned about our life together (and possibly children) given his mom`s disease. I would like to know if the disease is hereditary, at what point of life it is usually developed (my boyfriend is in his early 20`s) and if our children could get the disease.

Please answer as soon as possible

Answer:

Hello,

Thank you for your e-mail and excellent question. Yes, bipolar disorder can be inherited. However, always keep in mind the following 4 things:

1) "Genes do not equal destiny." Just because other family members have a disease, it doesn't mean 100% that a child will have it, it just increases the probability.

2) Even though the cause of bipolar disorder is probably biological, its course (or if and how it develops overtime) is influenced in positive and negative ways by environmental events (e.g., home life, school, friends, therapy, medications etc).

3). There are some very effective treatments available to help people manage their bipolar symptoms.

4) Even if families do "pass-on" their bipolar genes: a) Bipolar disorder is frequently associated with a range of incredible abilities (e.g., intelligence, creativity) and b) family members will also "pass-on" on a host of other important genetic traits.

In terms of when bipolar develops, we used to think it was only in early adulthood, but we are not finding that children as young as 6 can meet diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.

I hope my answers are helpful.

All best wishes,

For more information:

Go to the Bipolar Disorder (Children and Adolescents) health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nicholas   Lofthouse, PhD Nicholas Lofthouse, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University