Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Research has suggested that people with certain genes are more likely to develop this disorder than others. Children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are much more likely to develop the illness, compared with children who do not have a family history of bipolar disorder.
Genes are not the only risk factor for bipolar disorder. Studies of identical twins have shown that the twin of a person with bipolar illness does not always develop the disorder, despite the fact that identical twins share all of the same genes. Research suggests that factors besides genes are also at work. It is likely that many different genes and environmental factors are involved. However, scientists do not yet fully understand how these factors interact to cause bipolar disorder.
People tend to experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode. Manic-depressive illness is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks.
Bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
Medications, such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications, and antidepressants
Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
Self-management strategies and education
Complementary health approaches such as meditation, faith, and prayer