What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder (BD), also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition that affects your mood, energy, and productivity. People with bipolar disorder often alternate between periods of elevated moods or euphoria (mania), and periods of extreme depressive mood (depression) – with symptom-free periods in between.

Bipolar disorder can be extremely debilitating and may interfere with your ability to work, study, and maintain relationships. The fluctuations in mood caused by bipolar disorder tend to be sudden and unpredictable, and they can last for days, weeks, or even months at a time. 

Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. 

Symptoms Of Mania:

  • Increased energy and activity levels
  • Feelings of euphoria, inflated self-esteem, or grandiosity 
  • Impulsivity and recklessness 
  • Difficulty sleeping or reduced need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech 
  • Easily distracted by unimportant details/tasks 
  • Poor judgment 

Symptoms Of Depression:

  • Low energy levels 
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness 
  • Challenges concentrating or making decisions
  • Negative outlook on life
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Significant changes in weight or appetite
  • Excessive alcohol and substance use
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions 

Causes Of Bipolar Disorder 

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is not yet fully understood, but researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to the development of the disorder, as outlined below:


One of the main factors that contribute to the development of bipolar disorder is genetics. Studies have shown that bipolar disorder tends to run in families, indicating there is a genetic component to the illness. 

Although genetic predisposition is believed to play the most prominent role in BD – it is worth noting that not everyone with the condition has a family history of bipolar disorder, which indicates other factors are involved. This also means there is no guarantee that you will develop bipolar disorder just because you have a family member with the condition. 

Impaired Brain Structure And Chemistry

There is also evidence to suggest that bipolar disorder may be caused by abnormalities in brain structure and chemistry. Brain imaging and postmortem studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder exhibit subtle but significant abnormalities in brain structure compared to healthy individuals, suggesting that these changes may contribute to impaired functioning and ultimately result in bipolar disorder.

Neurotransmitters have also been implicated in bipolar disorder. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry signals between neurons. Available evidence shows that the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and epinephrine, are compromised, a phenomenon that could underlie the onset of bipolar disorder.

Environmental Triggers

Environmental factors, such as excessive stress, traumatic experiences, and substance abuse, may also contribute to the development of bipolar disorder or trigger the onset of symptoms in persons already at risk of developing bipolar depression.

The Takeaway

Bipolar disorder is a complex condition that can significantly impact a person’s life and overall well-being. Anyone can develop this debilitating mental illness regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. However, researchers have identified several factors that may contribute to the development or trigger the onset of bipolar symptoms.

These include genetic predisposition, structural and neurochemical abnormalities in the brain, and environmental triggers. Still, further research is needed to fully expound how these factors come together to cause this complex and debilitating mental illness.

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