Genetics and Bipolar Disorder

by Danielle Kraft
(Goose Creek, Sc)

Here is Danielle's question about Genetics and bipolar disorder

I have a 2 year old boy, he will be three in September. I also have a 4 year old girl. My son's father suffers from bipolar and has since he was 10 years old. It has always been a fear of mine that my son would end up sick as well. I’m not sure what to look for. I can't differentiate between typical toddler behavior and something more serious that may need addressed. He is a sweet and loving boy. Lately, he is very very trying. He doesn't listen and is being destructive. He doesn't hit or anything physical. He will, for instance, take a piece of paper off the table and rip it to shreds. He also yells a lot. To me and his sister, he is loving. He lets me cuddle him and put him in time out. I don't know if he is a typical 2 year old boy or if I should be concerned. My son's father suffers severe manic episodes which always begin with inability to sleep. My son goes to be between 8 and 9 pm and is up at 4am every day. He gets into everything and destroys things around the house. I am so afraid that I will have to go through this with my child. Please help! It proved to be too difficult to help my son's father and I don't want my son

to end up so sick.

Hi Dee to answer your question about genetics and bipolar disorder, there appears to be a strong genetic basis to bipolar disorder. Genetics and bipolar disorder have been investigated through twin adoption and familial studies. Studies also clearly show that if you have a bipolar parent you are much more likely to suffer some form of mental health trouble including bipolar disorder.
Recently studies on genetics and bipolar disorder have found genetic mutations linked to bipolar disorder.

Researchers continue to conduct studies each day to find more specific genetic information about how bipolar disorder is caused. If you do a google news search for bipolar and genetics you can investigate this each month.

In fact earlier this year a controversial genetic home testing kit for bipolar disorder was developed. Many of the families I work with have other relatives with bipolar disorder.

However the most widely accept belief is that both genes and environment influence whether bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses develop. Certainly sleep disturbance can be an indication of bipolar disorder, but also it can be indicative of many other things. I think it would be very important for you to keep an eye on your child and monitor him for symptoms because of his father’s diagnosis, just as you would if you have diabetes in the family. If you continue to have indications that he is struggling I would take him to a professional.

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