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what are some causes of bipolar disorder? by sanjana

bipolar symptoms usually begin to appear during late adolescence or early adulthood. With this in mind, what causes the onset of bipolar disorder? currently, the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. to the best of current knowledge, bipolar disorder is a multifactorial condition, meaning several different factors come together to increase one’s likelihood of developing the disorder. some, but not all, of these factors are described below*:


  • genetics: bipolar disorder often runs in families, and having a close relative with bipolar increases the chance of developing it. 

  • brain chemistry: the chemicals that control many brain functions are called neurotransmitters. some evidence suggests that imbalances in these chemicals are linked to bipolar disorder. for example, some studies suggest that noradrenaline levels are too high during manic episodes and too low during depressive episodes. some medications for bipolar disorder act on certain neurotransmitters to reduce symptoms.

  • triggers: many different stressful situations can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder symptoms. some of these situations can be relationship collapses, any form of abuse, death of a loved one, illness, or any other significant stress.

  • substances: certain medications, recreational drugs, or alcohol abuse can also trigger the onset of bipolar disorder symptoms.

  • other conditions: bipolar disorder is frequently accompanied by other disorders, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, ADHD, or alcohol or drug problems. these conditions may worsen the bipolar symptoms. however, having one of these conditions does not mean you will develop bipolar disorder!


** please note that none of these factors singlehandedly cause or prevent bipolar disorder. no one gene or neurotransmitter causes bipolar disorder. additionally, being linked to a disorder does not necessarily equal causation*. while certain events and medications can trigger symptom onset, this does not mean they caused the symptoms. rather, they may have brought symptoms to the surface that would have still appeared later on in life.


** for example, when ice cream sales go up, the amount of sunburns also go up. ice cream sales and sunburns are correlated/linked. does this mean ice cream causes sunburns? no! there is another explanation: sunny weather increases ice cream sales and sunburns. being linked does not always equal cause and effect!


to fully understand bipolar disorder causes, please speak with a healthcare professional and keep in mind the importance of assessing all possible factors. thank you for reading.

thank you to these sources for information used in this article:

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