Bipolar Disorder Community
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Avatar universal

childhood life

Recently I was talking with someone that said as a child the brain is still developing, controlling the chemicals in the brain. A lot of stress can affect how the chemicals are normally controlled as an adult, which could lead to mental disorders. I know I had big problems as a child and I am bipolar. Is that a common factor in being bipolar, or are people just born with it no matter what the circumstances?
15 Responses
585414 tn?1288944902
  There is increasing evidence that bipolar disorder is inherited and is genetic. Of course stressors may worsen the onset of any disability. And childhood trauma may be one of the root causes of borderline personality disorder although there may be some genetic factors. And post traumatic stress disorder is of course a reaction to something horrific and traumatic in nature. I would say for myself with schizoaffective I know its genetic (studies are showing that genetically people with schizophrenia are lacking in glutamate transmission which is further confirming that glutaminergic antipsychotics in Phase II FDA study such as the glycine I am on may be a more targeted solution) but that I started hearing voices at age 13 at the direct onset of puberty and had a full psychotic breakdown at age 18 and both of those years were filled with stressors (leaving for college is a stressor for most people) and unpleasent events but given that those are typical onset years there probably is something genetic about it although they haven't confirmed.
  I do know as for the bipolar aspect that I was misdiagnosed as having adhd as a kid but the "acting out" was really being manic. I didn't have strong episodes of depression until I was a teenager and withdrew from the world but there were aspects of paranoia regarding that as well. But I do know that there were extreme mood changes throughout my teenage years until I started on medication at age 18 and they were often triggered by stress or unpleasent events such as getting bullied in school. But it all would have happenned any way.
   If you want to find out about specifics about current theories as regarding the origin of bipolar disorder go to the website "Depression Central" (its for all mood disorders) or if you can read more clinical articles NARSAD or look it up in PubMed but current studies are all showing bipolar disorder genetic and often inherited (in my family, schizophrenia runs on one side, bipolar and cyclothymia on the other).
Avatar universal
What you were told about a child's brain still developing is correct.  In fact, brain development isn't even done yet when we are teenagers. (There is an article titled "Teenage Brain: A work in progress" on the National Institute of Mental Health's website here: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teenage-brain-a-work-in-progress.shtml )

There are some people that are born with a genetic predisposition to Bipolar Disorder, but have a relatively easy life and never develop symptoms.  Such a person may have a sibling that has a very difficult life and does develop symptoms because Bipolar Disorder tends to run in families.  The person that never developed symptoms may still pass the genes along to their children, and their children could end up developing the symptoms.  
It has also been noted that some people start out Cyclothymic and it develops into Bipolar Disorder due to enough major stressful events. (These stressful events are known as "triggers".)  This sort of thing would be difficult to study, of course, because the amount of sensitivity one has to stress can vary so much from person to person.  

No one yet knows exactly what causes the chemical imbalance within the brain, but researchers are looking for the specific genes that may play a role.  
It is interesting to note that I also had an extremely difficult childhood and so have many of the other Bipolar people I know.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if this plays some kind of role.
Avatar universal
Thanks for the info. I just knew that mental conditions were genetic. I always felt that a life of continued stress just made it worse. I too withdrew and have continued all through my life. I think stressful life makes a persons view point of things have deeper affects with a bp person. I have not figured out who in my family was bp. My dad had a very bad head injury in the war and had to have a large portion of his skull replaced. But he didn't really express bp. I was not close enough to family members to really know. How far back in the family can it carry to a person? I know you have done a lot of research and well educated on the matter.
Avatar universal
Hey--Good question!!  If anyone has the definitive answer to that one they'd be a hero and probably save the world.  How much is genetic/chemical, how much is environment/learned.  

My own opinion, unprofessional, opinion it's probably some of both, and more or less for some than others.  There, is that specific enough :)

I suffer from recurring depression.  I was not raised by my father but he and his mother and brother (my grandma and uncle) all had/have terrible depression.  My grandma and uncle (who I never knew) committed suicide.   I grew up in totally different (albeit very dysfunctional) environment, yet still have the same type depression.  

Certainly, children's brains are still developing and making connections between the various lobes and centers of the brain.  It seems reasonable that something could go awry for many reasons, to include emotional.

Makes me wonder sometimes.......


585414 tn?1288944902
As for how far back I don't know if studies have been conducted but with most genetic disorders they can be passed on for generations such as hemophillia in the British royal line so I would assume the same for bipolar. Its just harder to tell because with a family with a family tree its easy to trace a physical disability but bipolar and schizophrenia weren't even properly understood until the 20th century. However, knowing that I had a grand uncle who was obviously manic (the whole family sees it now, he passed on), trying to create deals with businesses that never worked out and involving people in them at the spur of the moment and known for screaming irrational political debates, a great aunt who may have had bipolar (she had severe arthritis but had depressive episodes even before she developed this condition which would cause depression in anyone and would have episodes where she became emotive and told inappropriate stories and that could have been manic episodes) and two great uncles from near the turn of the century who committed suicide when financial deals went bad and could easily have had depression its likely it stretches all the way back. In fact, in my great grandmother's memoirs she spoke of an aunt of hers when she lived in Russia that would wake the children up for no reason in the middle of the night every night to see if they were alright which easily could have been ocd or feelings of guilt from depression (happens in other family members) so its likely it spans centuries but its all speculative but within probability.
   And if someone does a family tree, remember even if an actual psychiatrist tried to analyze whether people from the distant past in your family had bipolar it would be hard to tell as much as it is for historical figures. But if people can start keeping track of who is actually diagnosed within their extended family, especially large extended families and bipolar and other psychiatric disabilities carry on for generations it would be worthwhile and I would assume that psychiatry will eventually do a study of this nature in the same manner that neurology did for Huntington's disease and proved that there were extended families that had been carriers for generations.
505907 tn?1258372940
Mother Nature is outraged! As the mother of four wildly different children who have all been diagnosed with a myriad of different mental They cried 24/7 or their ears bled when their eardrums burst and you never even knew they were ill.disorders I have to protest. My children all had the same two parents and same upbringing - stay home, hands on parenting. They were born either screaming, pouting, or placid. They were stiff when you hugged them or putty in your hands. They were night and day, black and white, easy or difficult. I believe a reason I kept having children was I just love a surprise and let me tell you, there was no way to guess what I was getting next time. I tried with all my skill and heart to direct and shape them but I tell you that I am no more responsible for my eldest being a sociopath then I am for my daughter getting her scholorships. Forgive me,too often have I been blamed for the very worst of my son's behaviors and I'm quickly defensive on this subject.
561706 tn?1333950874
You may want to research "kindling theory" in bipolar disorder.  Basically the idea is that our brains become more sensitive or vulnerable to stress over time and with repeated depressive/manic episodes.
Episodes can be triggered more and more easily over time and by (relatively) less stressful situations.
I afraid I don't have all the facts in front of me right now to get more detailed, but it really caught my interest wehn I first read about this. Please forgive me if I've got something incorrect here.
I'd be interested to hear others' comments about this.
P.S.  I had mental illness on both sides of my family and a very difficult upbringing (go figure!)
585414 tn?1288944902
Well I strongly believe that bipolar is inherited and as for myself when I was talking about stressors, many of them were every day ones such as going to college and being away from home for the first time or being bullied in high school and junior high school and as for the one I mentioned that was traumatic that came from a baby sitter and was sexual abuse and I was a kid. My mother was supportive and loving and I do believe my stepfather was quasi-abusive but he did not create my disability. He just didn't know how to handle it. And I do believe that's because he had bipolar with psychotic features. I wish he alive for me to discuss that with him now that I've recovered. Let him rest in peace with his troubled mind. I bear no emnity towards him.
   You sound like a very supportive mother and I do believe your son has a disability from what you've posted so you aren't responsible for that of course not but someone with adhd often can't control their behavior so he isn't responsible either. That would belong in a seperate forum for parenting but I've seen children with adhd grow out of it. It seems unlikely but the episodes that appear to be "acting out" end. So its a matter of coping with it and behavioral management and talk therapy and then in all likelikehood he may overcome a good part of it as he gets older. Some people with adhd need medication all their lives though but it depends. Either way, a lot of what appears to be uncontrollable goes into remmission as the child ages.
505907 tn?1258372940
  I hope you realize that I'm just feigning great dismay. Anyway, I can testify that this B.P. can escalate in severity.as we age and our brains tally up the blows they've taken over the years BUT first you'd have to have it in the first place. As for ADHD, I am of the firm belief that no one can "grow out of a disorder like this. I mean, scientifically how would THAT happen? We learn to cope - SOME of us. We subconsciously teach ourselves tricks to compensate for our deficiencies over time. Especially if we are more lightly aflicted and do not have any of the other myriad of sister mental difficulties to this disorder.There are studies which bear this out and, if I HAVE to, I'll go fetch them.

585414 tn?1288944902
I agree. I was just taking a personal observation that kids with adhd who display a lot of abnormal behavior that appears to be anti-social stop it as they approach adulthood. Of course they didnt' "grow out" of their disability. Maybe they learned to overcome the behavior. I just had thought from my observation that those specific symptoms, not the disability overall of course, went into remmission. But since those kids went from behavior that to an untrained person would appear like "acting out" into sports perhaps they learned to rechannel it. Actually with people I know who are adults who had adhd they have to take medication such as Ritalin or Strattera and still have trouble focusing so naturally its there for life.
  As for bipolar I'd be interested to know if it worsens over time. But as for schizophrenia or schizoaffective, from what psychiatry has observed even before the years when medication existed and my psychiatrist could bear this out and has informed me the symptoms go into remmission somewhat over time. Its not that people don't need medication ever. Its just what is full blown psychosis at the age of 18 by 30 years later may have lessened. As for bipolar I'd be interested to know what studies have shown. I only know people who have bipolar disorder who took medication later in life or young people just starting it. If someone is older, relatively speaking and took medication their whole life I'd be interested to see if scientifically speaking or even from an average consumer's perspective the symptoms clinically worsen. Or is it just that people haven't found the right medication and after time they become less useful. That happenned to me with mood stabilizers all the time. I've been through 30 of them and that's a large amount but I don't know anyone who is on one for life and doesn't find it stops working as well and doesn't have to change it.
505907 tn?1258372940
What you refer to,above, reminds me of the story of the great mathmatician, John Forbes Nash Jr.. Over time he learns to differentiate between his delusions and his reality. Fascinating stuff! I've recently read, on a web site you advised me of lLad, that lithium can actually allow the brain to heal itself from the effects of kindling - if I understand it sorrectly.
585414 tn?1288944902
Not quite sure about "A Beautiful Mind" as it was a Hollywood portrayal of the actual story. Schizophrenia requires medication and otherwise you can't distinguish delusions from reality. He is indeed a brilliant man. I'm just not sure if the movie told his life story as it happenned. As for Lithium, my psychopharmocologist has said that studies have shown it can help the brain long term. It seems strange to me as Lithium really flattened me out emotionally and caused cognitive blunting and also worsened extra pyramidal side effects from antipsychotics. Of course on its own it cannot cause tardive and from what he says it can help it. I would never take it again for the reasons I said but there are many people who have been markedly helped by it and if it stabilizes their mood symptoms for life then yes they have found the right fit and its the most effective mood stabilizer overall if the long term side effects are monitored for from what my psychopharmocologist said and as he is up on the latest studies I go by his judgement.
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