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Bipolar DisorderBipolar Causes

Let's Talk About the Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar is concerning, not just for the ways it can affect your personality, but also because the "why me?" isn't completely clear. Still, research shows a number of factors that may lead to the mental health condition—and understanding them can help you better deal with a bipolar diagnosis.

    Our Pro PanelBipolar Disorder Causes

    We went to some of the nation's top experts in bipolar disorder to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Po Wang, M.D. headshot

    Po Wang, M.D.Psychiatrist and Clinic Chief

    Bipolar Disorders Clinic at Stanford University Department of Psychiatry
    Amit Anand, M.D. headshot

    Amit Anand, M.D.Professor and Vice-Chair for Research

    Center for Behavioral Health at the Cleveland Clinic
    Linda Hubbard, L.M.F.T. headshot

    Linda Hubbard, L.M.F.T.Therapist

    Department of Behavioral Health, Psychiatry & Psychology at the Mayo Clinic

    Frequently Asked QuestionsBipolar Disorder Causes

    How do I know if I’m at risk for bipolar disorder?

    Ask yourself: Has anyone in the family been diagnosed with bipolar? Have you experienced any traumatic events? Do you sometimes go for days with little sleep but still feel you’re accomplishing a lot or have tons of energy? If you’ve answered yes to any of the questions, speak to a professional to assess your risk.

    If bipolar disorder runs in my family, is there any way to prevent me from getting it?

    Since scientists don’t know the exact cause of bipolar, there’s no certain way to prevent it. However, understanding the triggers—including stress, sleep disturbances, and drugs and alcohol—can certainly help: If there is bipolar disorder in your family, you can work to limit or avoid the triggers altogether. Being aware of the symptoms so you can get help immediately if they do occur is also helpful in managing the disease before it gets out of control.

    Can the use of antidepressants cause bipolar?

    Antidepressants taken alone (without a mood stabilizer) can sometimes trigger the onset of a manic episode in somebody who already has the disorder. Experts also think that using antidepressants can increase the frequency of manic and depressive episodes over the long term.

    At what age do people typically get bipolar disorder?

    The average age is around 25, though men often develop it earlier than women. And while not as common, children and teens can be diagnosed with it too—most typically, it’s diagnosed in the late teens, though symptoms may have started earlier without being specific enough to trigger a diagnosis. In kids, a manic episode may show up as acting silly, lashing out, talking fast on several different topics, and doing dangerous things.

    Leslie Pepper

    Leslie Pepper

    Leslie Pepper is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, fitness, and wellness.