Causes of bipolar

Provides an overview of bipolar disorder, including various causes and potential causes.

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What causes bipolar disorder?

No one is exactly sure what causes bipolar disorder. But research shows that a mix of different things like your body, environment, and social factors could make it more likely for you to develop it. Read on to discover more potential causes.

Medication, drugs and alcohol

Taking medication, using drugs, or consuming alcohol can trigger bipolar moods and symptoms. For instance:

  • Medication: Some drugs may induce hypomania or mania either during usage or as a withdrawal symptom, when you stop taking them. This includes medications for physical ailments and psychiatric drugs, such as certain antidepressants. 

Additionally, depression can be a potential side effect of various medications. It’s crucial to address any concerns regarding medication side effects with your healthcare provider.

  • Alcohol or drugs: Consumption of these substances can lead to experiences resembling mania, hypomania, or depression. Distinguishing between the effects of alcohol/drugs and mental health symptoms can be challenging.

Research indicates that the use of specific recreational drugs might elevate the risk of developing bipolar disorder, although the evidence remains limited.

If you’re concerned about how medication, alcohol, or recreational drugs may impact your mental well-being, discussing it with your doctor is essential.

Childhood trauma

Some experts think that going through a lot of emotional pain and distress as a child might lead to bipolar disorder. This is because tough experiences during childhood can make it harder for you to control and manage your emotions. These experiences can include:

  • Being neglected
  • Facing sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Going through traumatic events
  • Losing someone very important to you, like a parent or caregiver

Brain chemistry

Research indicates that specific psychiatric medications can effectively manage bipolar symptoms by targeting neurotransmitters, which are essentially the brain’s “messenger chemicals.” This implies that bipolar disorder might involve dysfunctions related to neurotransmitters. While some studies support this notion, there remains uncertainty regarding the precise workings of these neurotransmitters. 

It’s unclear whether issues with neurotransmitters are a cause or a consequence of bipolar disorder.

Stressful life events

You might notice your symptoms start after going through tough times or stress.

Stress can also make some people feel much worse, either by causing mood swings or making it harder to deal with their symptoms. You may start to notice what ‘triggers’ a mood episode, or may find what makes dealing with existing feelings worse.

Things that can cause stress include:

  • Being abused, bullied or harassed, including experiencing racism
  • Feeling lonely or isolated
  • Feeling under pressure while working, studying or looking for work
  • Big events, such as weddings or holidays
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Lots of change or uncertainty
  • Money worries and poverty
  • Losing someone close to you
  • A relationship breakdown

Family links

If you have bipolar disorder, it’s common to find out that other people in your family also have similar mood problems, but they might not have been officially diagnosed. This shows that bipolar disorder can run in families because of genes.

But, this doesn’t mean there’s just one “bipolar disorder gene.” The way bipolar disorder is passed down through families is complicated.

Also, the environment you grow up in plays a big role. Things like stress or how your family gets along can affect whether someone starts showing signs of bipolar disorder. So, both your family’s genes and the environment you’re in can influence bipolar disorder.

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