Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness that manifests itself as mood swings that cycle between manic, depressed, and normal moods. The illness effects over two percent of Americans, and accounts for about thirty percent of psychiatric hospitalizations each year.The cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood by psychiatrists and psychologists. However, researchers have been making steady progress toward understanding how the brain functions, and what actually causes bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. It is typically understood that bipolar disorder is caused by a combination of physical, biological, emotional, and environmental factors.
One theory of biological cause for bipolar disorder is the discovery of additional brain cells in some bipolar patients. According to the research, some patients have thirty percent more signal producing brain cells in two areas of the brain that normal people. It is speculated that these signal producing brain cells are those that regulate moods, pleasure responses, and stress responses.
Bipolar disorder has been known to run in families, although not everyone diagnosed with bipolar disorder has a family history of mental illness. This hereditary nature of the illness indicates that genetics may come into play as a cause of bipolar disorder.
The neurotransmitter system has also been studied in conjunction with bipolar disorder. It is believed that various neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norephinephrine, and dopomaine may have increased or decreased levels, imbalanced levels in relation to other neurotransmitters, or sensitivity in the nerve cells to the neurotransmitters may be linked to the cause of bipolar disorder. This imbalance has been found to be hereditary as well.
It is widely believed by psychologists that the biological causes of bipolar actually do not cause bipolar per se, but make a person more receptive or predetermined toward bipolar disorder. Triggers produced through situations, tragedies, environments, and childhoods must be present in order to put the biological tendencies toward bipolar disorder into motion. These triggers can be anything from a death in the family, childhood abuse, sexual abuse, rape, violent environments, or controlling relationships. The same is true when speaking of the mood cycling related to bipolar disorder. Mood cycling, or the changing between moods of mania and depression, is typically triggered by stress, environment, emotional situations, and tragic circumstances.
Drug and alcohol abuse may also play a part in triggering bipolar disorder. However, it is often difficult for doctors to determine which came first. Those with mood disorders often attempt to control their own moods through drugs and alcohol. However, those with obsessive drug and alcohol abuse can experience symptoms or trigger bipolar disorder.
In the end, it is clear that more research is necessary to determine the exact causes of bipolar disorder. As more information is gathered and discovered in areas of neurology, psychology, psychiatry, and genetics, more will become known about bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. As technology advances, more and more research becomes possible and more answers come to light. When bipolar disorder causes are truly known for a certainty, more viable and successful treatments will then become a possibility.