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What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Doctors and researchers have not yet determined exactly what causes bipolar disorder, but they have identified several risk factors that increase the likelihood that an individual will develop the disorder.
- Genetic Predisposition. The prevailing scientific understanding is that there isn’t a single gene that causes bipolar disorder. However, there is a strong connection between family history of the disorder and new diagnoses of the illness; those who have a close relative with bipolar disorder are significantly more likely to develop the disorder themselves. The current consensus is that there are multiple genes that contribute to an increased risk for developing the disorder, and these genes may be triggered by external environmental factors to cause the onset of the illness.
- Stress, Anxiety or Trauma. Some research has suggested that the brains of people with bipolar disorder are unable to cope with stress in an effective way. Chronic stress or anxiety, or a significant source of sudden trauma often coincides with the onset of the disorder, and these factors may also trigger subsequent episodes after the disorder first occurs.
- Lack of Sleep. Many sufferers of bipolar disorder experience unhealthy sleep patterns, and lack of sleep is a cause of physical stress that may contribute to the brain chemistry that causes the illness. Like other forms of stress, lack of sleep may also contribute to the onset of manic or depressive episodes after the initial onset of the disorder.
- Drugs and Alcohol. Nearly half of all people with bipolar disorder also struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. Sufferers often resort to substance abuse to cope with the effects of manic and depressive episodes, and the stress caused by the substance abuse may be a factor in triggering subsequent episodes. In some cases, antidepressants may also trigger episodes.
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