Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes children to be very irritable and have significant swings in mood; it was previously called manic-depressive disorder. But what triggers bipolar disorder in a child that took birth, was raised and acts exactly like other children? What are factors that put higher risk of manic-depressive episodes on children with bipolar disorder?
Well, answer to all these questions is primarily genetics and then, a few behavioural and developmental triggers. That’s it? No. It’s complicated.
Children with bipolar disorder may switch moods more often than adults. Which makes it additionally important to understand what causes bipolar disorder in the brain and how are these triggers different from those that adults are at risk of. For example, a child may exhibit periods of joyful cheering and silliness, anger outbursts, and crying all in one day. Children with bipolar disorder also tend to show less clear episodes and instead may show chronic irritability or mixed moods that involve a combination of mania and depression symptoms.
Moreover, as we said earlier, it’s complicated. The genetics involved in bipolar disorder expressed in children are complicated when it comes to what affects a child’s risk of getting the condition. While studies continue, researchers and psychiatrists do look at different triggers for higher-risk children and the onset of bipolar disorder in them. Here are five to keep in mind:
Bipolar disorder clearly has underlying genetic factors and it tends to run in families. Research has shown that when one parent has bipolar, children have up to a 30% chance of developing the disorder. When both parents have it, the risk increases as high as 75%. When a child has bipolar, the risk to siblings is up to 25% and the risk for an identical twin is up to 70%.
2. Anxiety Disorders
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, several studies show that “youth with anxiety disorders are more likely to develop bipolar disorder than youth without anxiety disorders. However, anxiety disorders are very common in young people. Most children and teens with anxiety disorders do not develop bipolar disorder.”
3. Familial Symptoms
Children who have a parent with bipolar disorder were themselves more likely to develop the disorder if they had baseline depression, anxiety or affective lability (unstable, rapidly changing emotions). A recent study from the American Journal of Psychiatry looked at around 350 youths ages 6 to 18 who had a parent with bipolar I or II and compared them to peers without a familial risk. Those with all risk factors had a 49 percent chance of illness onset.
4. Changing Schools
Children usually spend much more time in schools and different after-school events than they spend at home. The influence of their peers and their teachers is far stronger than the influence of a family at home. In the United States, 50% of families move every 5 years. Not all the moves involve changes in school districts, but many do. Changing schools brings with it the anxiety and stress of saying goodbye, losing touch with close friends, adjusting in a new environment and finding new friends
5. Child Abuse
Abuse and neglect are two of the most devastating things to happen to a child. Sexual and physical abuse are associated with high rates of anxiety that may persist for life. Abuse caused by family or close friends is the most damaging since these are the relations a child is taught to trust the most.
6. Toxic Social Situations
Adolescents are most vulnerable to damaging social relations. Attaining a newfound independence, they look for validation in peers more than from family. This may lead them to hand with the wrong crowd to “prove” that they can get things done their way. Many at times, adolescents get trapped in abusive relationships, without ever being able to tell the difference. If you child looks or feels different from the crowd, it’s quite possible that they become a target of bullying. Constant toxic social interactions increases the risk of depression, substance abuse and anger.
Adolescents in an attempt to get approval and praise often overcommit. It is not uncommon for children if high school age to have two jobs all the while studying at a local school. Moreover, the pressure to succeed. More than often, parents emphasize greatly on grades. Grades become a benchmark to measure the success of a child. The child in an attempt to get better grades, land big scholarships and do well in life compromises on social life. Moreover, the child under pressure will deprive themselves of sleep, engage in stimulants such as prescription drugs and caffeine to keep up their pace,
8. Parental Conflict Or Divorce
Parental conflicts are natural and normal, however persistent family conflicts can put a child at risk of a mood disorder. Situations where a child is asked to choose sides, deliver mean messages etc can be toxic for a child’s mental health. Divorce at times is the only solution to end a destructive family situation, yet, it puts extreme stress on a child. Research shows that children of divorced couples have lower IQ and higher rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Knowing what triggers bipolar disorder can help parents and caregivers of the children with bipolar disorder keep manic-depressive episodes at bay. For more information on what causes bipolar disorder in the brain and how it can be managed, sign up at www.abudo.com and become a master at bipolar management.
Kickstart your journey of learning now, and help your loved one overcome their unmanageable condition.