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Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Causes of Bipolar Disorder Houston - Sun Behavioral Houston

Feeling emotional highs and lows are a normal part of life. After all, good and bad things happen, and so it should be expected that our moods would change accordingly. That being said, people who struggle with bipolar disorder experience both intense and euphoric highs and crushing lows, often disproportionate to their circumstances, and in such a way that it affects their regular day-to-day life. Many times people with bipolar disorder will not only deal with these emotional peaks and pits but also with intense manias and depression that accompany them.

When diagnosed with bipolar disorder, people often wonder why and how they came to have this disorder and if they might have done something to cause it. Unfortunately, it is yet unknown what causes bipolar disorder. That being said, modern science has provided a number of explanations that might be attributing factors to the development of bipolar disorder.

The (Possible) Causes of Bipolar Disorder

While the causes of bipolar disorder are unknown, there has been research on genetic, environmental, social, and external causes of bipolar disorder. Although there is no confirmation that any one of these causes fully explains the development of bipolar disorder, understanding the most up-to-date explanations can help you identify bipolar disorder in yourself or your loved ones so that you might get a diagnosis, and receive a bipolar treatment program sooner.

Childhood Trauma

There is a popular misconception that bipolar disorder, along with a slew of other mental health conditions, is caused by early childhood abuse or trauma. Admittedly, research has shown that there may be a causal link between childhood trauma and the development of bipolar disorder later on in life. Research into this has shown that bipolar disorder can actually develop earlier on and in greater severity in relation to childhood trauma being present in a person’s history.

While this is not a direct or singular cause of bipolar disorder, it does show that experiences like neglect, sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse, parental loss, abandonment, and unstable housing may play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. Some theorize that this may be in relation to the fact that emotional regulation and development take place in childhood and that traumatic events and abuse can cause significant disruptions in regular development.

Stressful & Traumatic Life Events

When looking at the onset of bipolar disorder in adults, stressful or traumatic life events are often looked for as an explanation for the disorder. While it is true that manic or depressive episodes tend to follow stress or trauma, blaming these events may be misplaced. Instead of these events causing bipolar disorder, most researchers agree that stress and trauma instead exacerbate preexisting or dormant symptoms or trigger the bipolar episodes. What counts as a stressful event or a trauma is entirely unique to each person, and what may seem small to some, may be enough to trigger a bipolar episode in another.

Unbalanced Brain Chemistry 

There is research showing that the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be treated with medications that target the functioning of neurotransmitters. This has indicated that there may be a relationship between bipolar disorder and neurotransmitter functioning. This hypothesis has led to the development of successful bipolar disorder treatment options.


The tie between bipolar disorder, genetics, and familial relations is complicated at best. There has been evidence showing that there is an increased likelihood that the children of people with bipolar disorder will also develop the condition, as well as twin studies showing that if one twin has bipolar disorder then there is a 40% chance that the other twin will as well. While this is indicative of a genetic or biological cause of bipolar disorder, some researchers claim that there is instead perhaps an environmental factor when considering inherited bipolar disorder among family units.

When there is a person with bipolar disorder within a household, oftentimes if their condition goes untreated, then this can lead to tense living conditions, arguments, constant concern, and general disruption to the families day to day life. As previously explored, stress and life disruptions are sometimes attributed as the triggering factors of bipolar disorder symptoms. It could also be a culmination of both that results in the appearance of bipolar disorder symptoms.

Medication, Drugs, & Alcohol

Bipolar disorder cannot be attributed to any medication or substance usage, but there are several prescription and illicit drugs that can induce the manic and depressive symptoms commonly associated with bipolar disorder. What's more is that there have been studies showing that the damaging effects of illicit substances on the brain can actually increase the likelihood of a person developing bipolar disorder and even trigger initial episodes.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment at SUN Behavioral in Houston

Although a fairly common mental health disorder, bipolar disorder can cause major disruptions to a person's social, professional, and home life. The intense manic and depressive episodes can get people into trouble or prevent them from functioning at their full capacity. At SUN Behavioral, Houston, we recognize the issues that bipolar disorder can cause and want to help those struggling to manage their symptoms and lead happy and healthy lives.

Beat the Causes of Bipolar With SUN

If you or a loved one believe that you are struggling with bipolar disorder, are experiencing manias and depressive episodes, know that our compassionate team of professionals is waiting to take your call and walk with you on your path to recovery.Call us today at (713) 796-2273 to schedule your consultation and take control of your bipolar disorder.


FAQs About Causes of Bipolar Disorder

What is the main cause of bipolar disorder?

The main cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but research has shown that many factors including genetics, environment, trauma history, and drug usage may affect the development of bipolar disorder.

How do you diagnose someone with bipolar disorder?

To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder a person must meet a number of clinical criteria that are tested for by a trained professional. These professionals look for emotional and behavioral symptoms that might be attributed to bipolar disorder.

What are common treatments for bipolar? 

The most common treatments for bipolar disorder are medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. While both are highly effective on their own, they are even more so together.

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