Diseases

Bipolar disorder: the causes

Bipolar disorder affects both men and women, regardless of their social class. Its causes are multifactorial, with a strong endogenous component, ie genetic and biological.

Bipolar disorder occurs in young adults with a starting age between 15 and 40 years. More precisely, the average start age is around 20 years old. The causes of bipolar disorder would be largely genetic and biological, without ruling out the environmental causes, themselves involved in gene expression.

The relatively uniform prevalence in different cultures, the family tendency and the earlier onset of age than in unipolar depression (mania-less depression or hypomania) suggest a strong genetic component. If one of the parents has bipolar disorder, the risk of one of the children being affected is about 20%. If the father and mother have bipolar disorder, this risk rises to 50-60%. Thus, the existence of a history of bipolar disorder in the family goes in the direction of a genetic susceptibility to the disease.

However, like all psychiatric pathologies, environmental causes play a role in the onset of the disease. The existence of traumatic events or emotional deficiencies in the family or personal past, especially in early childhood, can promote the development of bipolar disorder.

These environmental causes would have an impact, only if a field of genetic susceptibility would be present. According to epigenetic theory, the existence of environmental factors (affective, infectious, inflammatory, etc.) would influence the expression of certain genes, and promote the development of bipolar disorder.

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