Bipolar Disorder & Young Adults: part two

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
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    Various experts have commented on the risky effects modern lifestyles have for teens and young adults who might otherwise avoid bipolar disorder. Those with a genetic predisposition to bipolar don't need much in the way of stress or lifestyle change to upset a delicate balance. Recreational drug use for example frequently involves stimulants and some experts feel this is sufficient to tip the balance in favor of bipolar.


    Genetic predisposition to bipolar is interesting because not every generation is equally susceptible. Some attention has focused on a biogenetic system called trinucleotide repeat expansion. This refers to gene sequences that seem to develop each time they are inherited. For someone with bipolar the implication is that later generations will suffer far more than earlier ones. To date research is tentative as to whether such a mechanism actually exists. Chromosome 22 appears to be strongly implicated in both schizophrenia and bipolar but the exact mechanism, and how this relates to other genes, has yet to be uncovered.

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    While we wait for science and technology to reveal more, we are left with systems and treatments that are known to provide relief. Structure and routine do appear to help with symptoms. Parents of children with suspected or diagnosed bipolar disorder are actively encouraged to set firm boundaries when it comes to bedtime and getting up for breakfast. For some teens and adults the routines continue but for others it becomes more difficult. Late night activities often fuelled with alcohol and/or drugs are part of many young adult lives. Moving away from home, typically to college, can be highly disruptive and stressful for any young adult, let alone for one who is living with bipolar.


    College students with bipolar appear to respond well to treatment according to a report in the online science news site, ScienceDaily. Terrence Ketter, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine argues that patients in early adulthood are easier to treat if they have had fewer than three episodes. "If we don't let episodes occur, patients can do exceedingly well," he is reported as saying. Unfortunately students with a family history of bipolar do not appear to fit within this optimistic framework.


    Support for teens and young adults appears central to their welfare. It can come in many different practical and emotional ways. Medication, although often effective in the treatment and prevention of mania or depression, is still based largely on what is known from adult populations. However this, and a variety of ‘talking therapies' such as counseling, CBT, family therapy and other forms of health education and promotion packages can all help to provide structure, stability, predictability and meaningfulness in the lives of young people.

Published On: July 13, 2009