Q:  Is Bipolar caused by childhood abuse?

I'm a pre-adopt parent of a 2 year old Daughter.  Bio Mom is diagnosed Bi polar.  I was told there was no genetic pre-disposition due to the fact that Bio Mom's Bi polar was caused from abuse as a child.  Is this information correct?  Bio Dad has never been identified, so I don't know what I may be dealing with from him.

Dear Leda -- 
Bipolar Disorder is not caused by abuse as a child.  It may be made more likely by that experience: the genetic predisposition is only that, a predisposition; there is some additional environmental experience that seems to be required to have the symptoms appear, and an "abusive" treatment as one grows up seems to be one of those experiences. 

If Bio Mom had the symptoms (and I presume the correct diagnosis -- ?; e.g. perhaps she had something more like a severe post-traumatic stress disorder?  this can look a fair bit like "bipolar", and even respond to some of the same treatments), then there is a genetic risk you could have (but did not necessarily) acquired from her.  

Dr. Phelps


Published April, 2001