Who is affected?

Bipolar disorder affects men, women, children, and adolescents from different ethnic backgrounds and social classes. Like all other mental disorders, bipolar disorder does not discriminate. The lifelong prevalence of this disorder is known to affect approximately one to two percent of the U.S. population. The age of onset for bipolar disorder ranges from childhood to 50 years of age with the average age being 21. There is nearly an equal male-to-female ratio for this disorder. Bipolar disorder is known to have a large genetic and biological component, meaning if you have been diagnosed with this disorder, there is most likely nothing you could have done to prevent it. This disorder is not your fault and the most important step is to learn about this disorder and seek appropriate treatment. Studies have shown that adopted children who grew up in a loving, positive and safe environment are more likely to develop bipolar disorder if their biological parents had the disorder, proving that biology trumps environment for this specific mood disorder. Additionally, brain anatomy and neurochemistry also play a major role; two other aspects that you, as an individual cannot control. Some mental health disorders have many environmental triggers such as past abuse, trauma, poor coping skills, or severe external stressors, however bipolar disorder is for the most part, ingrained in your DNA.

What causes bipolar disorder: genetics, biochemical factors and brain changes

Like the majority of mental health disorders, bipolar disorder is multifactorial meaning that many factors play a role in the development of this mood disorder. Bipolar disorder is known to have a major genetic component involved in the etiology. First-degree relatives (parents, children, and siblings) of people with bipolar disorder type I (BPPI) are seven times more likely to develop this disorder compared to the general population. Additionally a child of a parent with bipolar disorder is at a 50% increase of having a major psychiatric disorder diagnosed in life. Biochemical factors such as neurotransmitters, which are the hormones in the brain responsible for communication, are also known to contribute to bipolar disorder as well as physical changes in brain regions and environmental stressors. For example, epinephrine and norepinephrine causes mania and a decrease in epinephrine and norepinephrine causes depression. Additional studies have shown that an increase in the sensitivity (hypersensitivity) of white matter as well as a decrease in quantity and/or function of gray matter can lead to a greater risk for the development of bipolar disorder.

Personality disturbances and depression

Depression, which is a mood disorder that is related to bipolar disorder, is a manifestation of losses such as the loss of self-esteem and sense of worthlessness. Mania serves, as a defense against feelings of depression and therefore many experts believe that untreated depression can progress into bipolar disorder, as mania is an unhealthy coping mechanism that develops. Studies have shown that Studies have shown that individuals with unipolar depression and who are taking antidepressant treatment are at an increased risk of subsequent mania/bipolar disorder. Therefore it is important to consider risk factors associated with mania when using pharmacological treatment for individuals with depression. Additionally, personality disturbances in extraversion, neuroticism, and openness are known to be risk factors for bipolar disorder.

Introducing everyday coping skills into your life

Coping skills do not have to be these unattainable, lofty ideas but rather they can be concrete everyday activities such as hobbies. Hobbies can also be a way to form bonds between other individuals who share the same interests thereby being a way of social support. Hobbies can be anything of interest that occupies and fascinates an individual. They can include outdoor fitness activities, traveling, learning a new language, enrolling in a cooking class, learning to knit or any other activity that allows the individual to adopt a happy mindset.