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May 10th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

Will my baby inherit bipolar disorder?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Asked by Amy of Dallas, Texas

I am five months pregnant, and it has been great. My mother-in-law has bipolar disorder and is clinically depressed. I wonder if there will be a slight chance that my baby will get that from her? My husband has been emotionally taking care his mother since he was 10 and can't seem to help.

Expert answer

Dear Amy,

I am sorry to hear about your mother-in-law's troubles and by extension your troubles with her, not the least of which is your fear that her mental illness may be inherited by your unborn child.

As always when it comes to mental illness, there is good news and bad news.

The bad news is that these disorders are clearly hereditary, with bipolar disorder - which is also known as manic depression - being more heritable than what I sometimes call "regular old depression." So the presence of your mother-in-law in your unborn child's genetic legacy definitely increases risk.

The good news is that it probably doesn't increase the risk very much if most other people on both sides of the family are mentally healthy, or at least reasonably so.

The risk seems to be cumulative: The more people in a family who have a condition, the more likely it is that a new member will also suffer. The fact that your husband does not appear to have the same condition as his mother is also encouraging, because your child will inherit his or her genes directly from your husband, who himself received on average only half his genes from his mom.

The other piece of powerful good news is that bipolar disorder and other major psychiatric conditions are only partly genetic. If they were completely genetic, then if one identical twin had the condition, the other would always be doomed. But in fact, the risk to the other twin is somewhere just above 50%.

If a parent has bipolar disorder, his or her children have a 10% of developing bipolar disorder (more or less). This risk goes up considerably if both parents are affected. But even in this condition, children are about twice as likely to develop depression instead of bipolar disorder.

The fact that bipolar disorder has a strong genetic component also means you can help protect your unborn baby from the condition by providing her the best environment possible.

Make sure your nutrition during pregnancy is optimal. Do what it takes for you not to get depressed and to stay in an optimal state of mind. If you develop a postpartum depression, treat it quickly, because we know that when new moms get depressed, their babies suffer now and are much more likely to develop mental illness as they age.

As your child grows, try to maintain the most loving, supportive and non-conflictual environment you can. Any steps you can take in this depression will help provide your child from the same problems that beset his grandmother.

Follow Dr. Raison on Twitter


soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. KRMJ

    This is the leading reason I am afraid to have children. I suffer from Bi-polar disorder and the last thing I want to do is pass this horrible thing on to my child, or all of my children. There are multiple genetic traces of this on mine and my husband's sides of the family.
    I'm also curious, can I take my depression and bi-polar medicine while I'm pregnant and breast feeding? I've heard if you're not depressed or Bi-polar yet and you start taking the medicine that you'll become that way. But I just know I'd suffer from Postpartum depression and I also don't want to be one of those mother's that drowns their baby.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    May 10, 2011 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lin

      KRMJ: My grandson's mother was told to not breast feed her child because of her medications. It was not the end of the world and the best for the baby. She did take her meds while pregnant. Your own doctor has to determine what is best for you. In this case the mother was fairly unbalanced before pregnancy but seems more focused and has fewer manic upsets than prior to pregnancy. Since she is not married to the father being a single mother makes the situation more difficult. They are likely not married because my son could not deal with the turmoil of her mania. She would stop taking her meds just to punish him so life was a roller coaster for them. Of course we worry about the baby's stability but knowing the situation really makes it easier to watch for signs and address them. The best to you. Work closely with your doctor.

      May 10, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
    • Kayt

      Definitely stay in touch with a doc should you decide to have children. I'm in the same boat. I spent most years thinking I simply didn't want kids, but as I age, I'm not so sure. Personally, I'm considering adoption. There are plenty of great kids out there that need a loving family. But I understand that's a huge personal decision, and it's not for everyone.

      May 10, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • bpaffectchild

      Depending on the severity of the illness, I can see how you can consider it a blessing and a gift – especially in the manic phase. However, for children who are brought up in bp family, it is a nightmare (that has been my experience). I loved, loved the times right before my mom's mania turned into psychosis. She was fun, funny, creative and full of life and energy, but that quickly turned darker than dark. I know some people have milder forms of bp than my mom does, and some bp people live very productive and creative lives. I'm just saying that is not everyone's experience and the ups and downs of bp can be terrifying to a child.

      May 10, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
    • Bonnie

      Just as this whole population of people on this earth are different from another, there is a whole spectrum of difference from one person with bipolar disorder from another. In my experience, having battled this myself, it only takes one glance between me and my beautiful, healthy, intelligent daughter to know that my husband and I made the right choice to have her. Don't take having children lightly... EVER. Know the facts, medication side effects, keep in contact with a trusted clinician and please, please put a family or community support system in place. Gather your resources. Your family will thank you in the end.

      May 10, 2011 at 18:46 | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      Your doctor's advice is best regarding taking meds while pregnant and breastfeeding, but today it seems to be more common for doctors to tell moms to continue with their medications because the benefit of her mental health is considered a more important concern than possible side effects on the fetus/baby. The reality is that clinical trials are rarely done on pregnant women for ethical reasons, so it's not so much as the drugs are KNOWN to result in side effects, but rather that there is a lack of conclusive information.

      If you're on higher doses of your medications, it may be wise to consider going on a lower dose while you're breastfeeding, and mixing or alternating with formula to reduce the concentration of medication that might be passed on even further. There are multiple solutions available to you. A very strong support system also helps mothers cope with post-partum depression, since PPD has been observed to be MUCH higher in single moms and moms who have little familial or community support. It might be possible for your parents or in-laws or an aunt or even good friend to temporarily relocate to be near you the first several months of your child's life, so that you have an extra "parent" around lending a helping hand. Just an extra set of hands being there so that you and your partner can get a full night's rest now and then can do a world of good for your health and stability!

      May 10, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
    • SES

      Many medications are safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Unfortunately, lots of doctors are woefully ill-informed in this area, even specialists, particularly in regard to breastfeeding. The best bet is to arm yourself with information: there's Dr. Hale's "Medications and Mothers' Milk", and the InfantRisk Center hotline.

      May 10, 2011 at 22:15 | Report abuse |
    • Kabra

      SES is absolutely correct, there are medications that are safe to take while pregnant and breastfeeding for many mental illnesses. Depression is the easiest as Zoloft is highly protein bound which means very little can cross to your milk. The book by Dr. Hale is a good resource as is the AAP list of drugs that are approved for use in breastfeeding. You can also go to a website from NIH called Lactmed and look up any drug you have questions about for safety during breastfeeding. Unfortunately, many doctors do not know about these resources and do not realize that switching to formula represents a risk to your baby and to mom as well. Many women are much more stable while breastfeeding because their hormones do not fluctuate, suddenly stopping can abruptly worsen their condition.

      May 10, 2011 at 23:58 | Report abuse |
    • joseph cecil smith

      pick a more compassionate headline than 'will my baby inherit'.. it's really baiting the person to fear.. such use of fear in these times.. but that's the darker side of media, get people scared sick, sell them the solution.

      May 11, 2011 at 00:43 | Report abuse |
    • Bug08

      I have Bi-Polar Disorder and have a 3yr old. During my pregancy i did not take any of my meds, and i was ok without them. I also did not take any meds while i breastfed my baby. The day i stopped breastfeeding i started taking my meds again. My dr told me that during pregnancy "most" women who suffer from BP do not have issues because of the raging hormonal changes going on. I consider myself very lucky to have not had any problems while i was off my meds.

      May 11, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • star

      How do u know. Ur child cud be perfectly healthy. The chances of inheriting the illness are quite low esp if only 1parent has it. Wud u nt want to be alive just cos of this. Lithium is safe after 26 wks. Listen to doc advice on medication. Esp just after childbirth. It is terrifying to be manic although not during the fun bit. I did nt listen and take my med. Thought I Wud be fine. For those who left nasty comments think what it Wud be like if YOU OR UR FAMILY HAD THIS and have dum manners. It cud affect any1

      February 4, 2013 at 20:06 | Report abuse |
    • John Middlemas

      Since they don't know what bipolar disorder is caused by they can't know it has a genetic factor either. The 50% "genetic" risk factor of identical twins may be caused by upbringing or some other factor. Also, the twin data is only valid for twins and conclusions may not be drawn for non-twins. In my opinion this so called "science" is without foundation.

      February 15, 2014 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
  2. Che

    Yes, your baby certainly will. Sorry honey, that's how it works.

    May 10, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jendfly

      Who died and made you God? How can you say something like that? It's true that there is a slight chance, but this woman is 2 generations removed from the disease. Diabetes is hereditary too. Had a maternal aunt, paternal grandfather and dad all with diabetes. But my sibling and I don't have it.

      May 10, 2011 at 14:06 | Report abuse |
    • Nope.

      Not every child will be a recipient of bipolar disorder. My mother had it, as well as her mother and two of my mother's sisters. I do not have bipolar disorder at all and neither does my brother or my sister.

      May 10, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Avoid stress and people like Che. It can be difficult to avoid harmful and toxic people in your families and may need to develop strategies for that. My son who is now 29 has depression but he is not bi polar like I am. Nor does he have PTSD. I kept him well away from my family who brutalized me because of my symptoms. I had brutal post partum psychosis but the doctors told me it was normal and would go away. I was hallucinating and so paranoid that I hid knives under my pillow and searched the house 5-10 times a day even if I had not left the place. That was the beginning of the end of any hope for me.

      Be careful. If you do not trust your doctor get other opinions including from women you know who have been through it. If your health plan allows it see more than one doctor. I believe my son is as well as he is because I did not abuse him. I paid attention to his moods and got him to a doctor when it was time. Educate yourself as many doctors, even psychiatrists, are not keeping up with the research and will try to side track you. Keep yourself safe always. Neither family doctors nor psychiatrists are neurologists and may hand off old and invalid information.

      May 10, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
    • s2kMATTers

      CHE blows goats for cash. I have proof.

      May 10, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  3. T3chsupport

    Maybe, but don't let the 2s and 3s convince you too early! They're all bipolar at that age...

    May 10, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. TJM

    Both my parents were bi-polar. My older brother is severely bi-polar, almost to the point of being non-functional despite years of treatment. All three of his children are bi-polar. His daughter's teen aged children are exhibiting signs of being bi-polar. I'm sincerely grateful that I was not affilicted because I've seen first hand how devastatingly it can effect people. It's the reason that never had a children.

    May 10, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Ben

    There's a general split in the medical community about whether it's best to go off your medications or not during pregnancy. Only you and your doctor can decide, but here are some of the considerations:
    1. How likely are you to relapse into depression / biplolar without your meds? Being pregnant and postpartum is difficult enough; you don't want to make it more difficult.
    2. Is there research to support the notion that your specific drugs will pass through the placenta and/or breastmilk to the baby? There's surprisingly little definitive research on this.
    3. What are the withdrawal symptoms?

    My wife was on Effexor, and went off during pregnancy due to the difficult withdrawal. We didn't want our baby to go through withdrawal right after birth. But then after birth she went back on the Effexor, since there's no evidence that Effexor makes its way into breastmilk. But again, these were all calculated risks we took, not definitive facts. Your unique situation will determine what risks you should and shouldn't take.

    May 10, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. LWells

    I'm bipolar, my husband isn't and only a great aunt on my dad's side had mental issues that they didn't diagnose then. I've often thought about this as well – cause I wouldn't wish this condition on an enemy. But if the article above is correct, there's only a 1 in ten chance genetically. There are so many things that could go wrong, such as autism, that you have to have faith that if you're ok your child will be. Couple that with unconditionally loving parenting, knowledge, health, and thoughtfulness and odds are well in your favor that everything will be ok :-)

    May 10, 2011 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. AnnaBarr

    During my pregnancy with my first daughter, I was always upset and in emotional upheaval. I had untreated mental conditions. Her father, had issues (nothing major)but his mother had major (untreated issues). From the moment she came out, I knew she was going to have problems. Compounded with a rough divorce and instability in her upbringing; it was a recipe for disaster. She now has severe addiction and mental issues and is in denial and will not seek help. However, her sister was the happiest baby ever and lived through the same childhood. She does has issues but she is a fighter and is working through them. Even if my first daughters upbringing had been different, I still think there would have been challenges with her. I often think that if I truly realized how genetics play out if I ever would have had children.

    May 10, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. bpaffectchild

    Please think long and hard before having a child if you are bipolar. My mom is bipolar and I, of course, am grateful to her for my life and that of my brothers, but we have all been left with lasting scars from growing up with a severely mentally ill mom. It is a difficult road for both the mom and the child. Raising children can be stressful – stress and bipolar do not mix.

    May 10, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      I'm sorry you had such a rough childhood. My father was an alcoholic and abusive, and my mom struggled with untreated depression and social isolation, so I know life can be very difficult.

      Having said that, people with bipolar who respond to medication, have a strong support system, and are investing in both pharmacological and psychological treatments have pretty good outcomes. They can make good parents. It's when one of those blocks is missing that they struggle. I know several people with bipolar who are more than fit to parent. It's simply not fair to make sweeping generalizations about bipolar disorder.

      May 10, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      You are likely correct Nicole. The reality is that not everyone has all the circles of support, money, good health care and they have more than enough abuse, bullying, being told they are not able to do many things. The stigma is alive and well. My abusive and, quite clearly, mentally ill mother got her answers of how to cope with me from her Baptist Church. I was demon possessed. and they tried to beat it out of me. The entire family blamed and still blames me. My parents were told I needed help by a social worker my Mom sent me to to get the social worker to tell me to behave. The social worker quickly saw that the whole lot of us needed help. My Mom said no as it was a Demon possession and therapy is a tool of the Devil.

      I believe the ill need the acceptance of their families of their illness. So many families won't admit they or their child is ill because of the stigma. I.e. out of self serving ends. Arguing with the ignorant and belligerent is a waste of time and it breaks your heart. If they say they love you, they are lying if they do not act lovingly. Okay, maybe they are just misinformed about what unconditioned love means. Friends can be just as good and often are not carrying a grudge against you for your behavior at a family dinner 40 years ago.

      May 10, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
  9. NoDoubt

    My mother was bipolar, and I have depression, but I think its because of the crazy childhood I had with my mom being sick and not having medical help. If she had been on medication and receiving therapy I doubt I would have had an issue.

    May 10, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CalgarySandy

      Are you a doctor? How can you know such a thing if you are not? Opinion is not fact.

      May 10, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
    • Everyman

      CalgarySandy: dont be silly, what is fact in this disease? Everything is a best guess based on symptoms–even the doctors have to observe and guess.

      May 10, 2011 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
  10. SpecialPlace

    Maybe I am the only one who loves Manic-Depression. I feel beyond blessed that I was handed such a gift. While many of you clearly see it as a curse, I will cry my eyes out the day that genetics can be "fixed" during pregnancy, eliminating Manic-Depression from the world.
    Passing this down to my child is a controversial thing. I understand that. However, in the end, I tend to believe that my child would feel the same way I do, and feel blessed by unique gifts that could be afforded to him.

    May 10, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Uh, Yeah.......

      You sound like you're manic right now.

      May 10, 2011 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
  11. StaceyinOhio

    I was not diagnosed as having Bi-polar I (one) (mixed episodes- that is: more than one episode of mania and more than one episode of depression, in an up/down pattern, and severe -on a scale of mild, moderate, severe and psychotic) disorder until Dec 2010(At 28 years old). I have suffered ADHD since my pre-teen years. I have a 3 year old daughter(who is a TYPICAL 3 year old!) and a 7 year old daughter. My 7 year old has some MILD ADHD issues, but I have opted NOT to medicate her. I manage her with strict schedule adherence and proper guidance for her behavior, and she is fine. I, however, take Lamictal for the bi-polar and Vyvanse for the ADHD. The combonation works very well FOR ME. Everyone is different, as are their needs. Clinical depression runs down both sides of my family, in EVERY SINGLE PERSON. There isnt ONE relative that DOESNT take an anti-depressant. EXCEPT ME. *I* am THE ONLY person in my family with bi-polar disorder. It could be the combo of my ADHD *mixed* with clinical depression, but it was diagnosed as bi-polar. Science and genetics, etc... explain some of it. But if that were the final "word" in it, then how did *I* get it? You just have to do what research you can, talk to your doctor about YOU, factor in YOUR beliefs, and make YOUR decision for what is best for YOU and YOUR family. It truly isn't anyone else's place to say. Because, unfortunately, you are going to get the unwanted, negative opinions of those who haven't a leg to stand on in the debate of the topic... but think they know it all. Best wishes.

    May 10, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. akarmin

    http://angerclinic.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/hitting-children/

    May 10, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Katya

    Maybe you should have thought of this before you decided to reproduce.

    May 10, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. CalgarySandy

    You are a bully hiding behind god and he will get you for it.

    May 10, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ella

    This is all so silly. If you read the information and studies, yes, there is a genetic link/possibility. I was diagnosed at 25 and have two parents who are fine mentally. No one in my family on either side has any problems. As far as being able to take meds while pregnant or breastfeeding, one common alternative now prescribed is to go off the meds and have ECT. Forget the 1950s scare stories of back rooms and bouncing off tables. Talk to your doctor and watch tapes of current sessions being performed. 2011 is as different as that time period as excessively manic is from excessively depressed. The fingers of the patient barely move. It has no proven lasting effect on long term memory, and is excellent on treating depression. The two outstanding teaching centers for this are in NYC and Duke in North Carolina. Ask your doctor about it. Find out the facts. Don't assume that you'll, as one person said, drown your children in a tub if you forego your meds for a while. I chose not to have children out of pure selfish reasons (I like my free time to be mine), and have ECT to prevent taking the 14 pills a day that I was on (many were the same ones divided into morning and evening dosing). Regarding memory, I don't "learn" the day after, such as I can't read a recipe and recite it back to you the next day, but I can tell you all the details from three days ago, three weeks ago, and my barely thirty years ago. Ask your doctor. Going off your meds does not mean foregoing treatment. So, trash my ideas, tell me I'm an idiot, and call me a sadist, but then do the research for yourself rather than relying on individual advice from strangers. That may be what this is, but I'm encouraging you do to your own medical research and look at studies rather than looking at a chat board. Thanks for your time and probable hatred. :-)

    May 10, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SpecialPlace

      Ella,
      I certainly don't think you'll attract any more hatred for your open-mindedness and desire to help calm the misunderstandings of ECT. Thanks for your post. It was certainly informative. Thank you.

      May 10, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
    • Kabra

      Great post. The clarity of your answer should also help dispell the fear of ECT, you are obviously doing really well. I've seen and helped administer ECT and it is a very effective, safe, humane treatment for the right illness. Some, not all, need fewer or even no medications.

      May 11, 2011 at 00:03 | Report abuse |
    • SJS

      I agree that ECT can be very beneficial in many situations; I have seen many, many people helped by it. However, it is important to realize that there are risks involved. I was severely depressed during my teenage years, but had my first manic episode when I was 21. After I crashed, I had ECT. During the time that I was receiving ECT, I was psychotic and violent, both symptoms that I had never experienced before. My doctor continued the treatments despite my behavior and I continued to injure myself and attempt to assault others. Two days after the treatments ended, I was very confused due to short-term memory loss, but I was no longer psychotic or violent. I have never had any memory of the two weeks during which I received treatments. As I said, ECT can be very helpful, but there are still risks, particularly for bipolar patients.

      May 11, 2011 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
  16. Ella

    I could not agree more. Every time I read my Bible I come upon story after story of depressed cities of people with depressed children. I'm just glad Mary wasn't depressed. Imagine the world we would be in now. Sarcasm.

    May 10, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. CalgarySandy

    I asked my pshrink about ECT and he laughed in my face. He told me I was far too energetic to do that. I have always been depressed and had some phobia/anxieties. It turned into a horror show of severe paranoia with aural and visual hallucinations with Post Partum Psychosis.After that went untreated, laughing at me for my fear did not help, oddly enough. After years of getting worse and worse I determined it was time to stop taking handfuls of toxins and do ECT. They refuse. Perhaps he is one of those living in the pocket of a pharmaceutical company. I had one more pshrink after him who was even worse. I have sworn off therapy. It might be good if any of them knew how to do it.

    May 10, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. SpecialPlace

    I'm not even sure what you are talking about, biblecat;
    I can't tell if you are using sarcasm and acting crazily or if you were serious with this post...

    May 10, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Manuel Mota-Castillo, MD

    Very well-balanced answer by the good Dr. Raison. I want to remind one of the commentators that the "second generation" (father) can have a mild form of the bipolar spectrum because "he can sleep". Insomnia is one of the more consistent symptoms of bipolar but , obviously, it could be related to multiple reasons such as excessive caffeine intake, pain, anxiety, etc. To those who doubt that bipolar is inheratable and/or believe that children are shielded against mental illness I want to call their attention to the fact that cancer can attack infants and that it is worse than a mental illness. Besides, if we inheret skin color and shape of our eyes -to mention only two- why not the genes that regulate the brain functioning?
    Another good news is that bipolar disorder is not "all bad" since many famous artists and prominent people are and had been manic-depressive. Thank you Dr. Gupta from bringing on such an interesting question and good luck to the concerned mother.
    Manuel Mota-Castillo, MD

    May 10, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jen

    Interesting article. All four of my grandparents were clearly bipolar, yet somehow nobody figured out that I was until I turned 40. Looking back at my life, it's like a tornado went through it, causing havoc and ruining relationships with practically everybody. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to be diagnosed and medicated now, but I wish some of the "professionals" had had an aha moment a lot earlier on. And, my medications cannot be taken while pregnant - so I'm never having kids.

    May 10, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. A. Marie

    I am glad an article has been posted addressing this issue. I have a MIL who has a host of mental disorders, eating disorders, including bio-polar disorder, you name it. My fiancee and I are on the fence about having children. I already have two from a previous marriage and one is autistic and it looks like the other, my youngest might have epilpsy.. But we are not sure... Now do we want a child with Bi-Polar?? heck no. My fiancee is the only one in his family least his mothers side who doesn't have some form of mental illness... there all medicated :( We are considering going to see a geneticist if we can afford it.

    May 10, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tcat

    I was reading a study somewhere in my psychology studies that said bipolar disorder was actually a collection of several illnesses.

    May 10, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Brian Holbrook

    I was diagnosed as bipolar in 2005. I am reasonably sure my paternal grandmother was also, furthermore I'm relatively certain that my daughter (now 9) is also bipolar. It is not a death sentence. It is manageable. It can even be *gasp* worthwhile. My grandmother, myself, and my daughter are all artistic, creative, and above-average intelligence. Substance abuse is a problem, as is depression, and other socio-economic areas of life can suffer, but I wouldn't trade my brain chemistry for anyone else's.

    May 10, 2011 at 18:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SpecialPlace

      Thank you, Brian!
      When I mention that I would never take it back for the world, people tell me I must be off my meds and in a manic. It's a shame that people aren't able to see the goodness of it all. Maybe not everyone can be a Newton or Van Gogh, but at the very least we can recognize that, with some ability to control the negatives, we have the ability to control the positives.

      May 11, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse |
  24. SNOW

    My mother has bp. I remember when I was a kid she would sleep all day and I only saw her when she got up to get food. My father worked all the time and wasn't around. I saw my brother grow up to fast because he had to take care of me and my brother. I would never wish for this life for anyone. My heart goes out to all the mothers, fathers who have this and there children. I'm 20 years old and I'm worried I might be bp. If I do I'm not sure if i wantt kids or even get married. I don't want to put my family what I went through.

    May 10, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. LEB

    Mental illnesses very often are inheritable, but we also know a LOT more about them today then when your mother was a child. In her day, especially if you were a woman, you were told it was "all in your head" and would go away. Hence why people drank and smoked so much... they were self-medicating.

    There's also a lot more research being done on mental illness in teens, since it can be trickier to diagnose in hormone-flooded adolescents. All I know is that if I had been put on the meds I'm on now as a teenager, it would have saved me a lot of pain and anguish and helped me have a happier young adulthood. Thank goodness I didn't have to wait until my 60s to get the right treatment as my father did, but if any kid of mine was showing signs of unusually strong emotional difficulties, I would not hesitate to do anything it took to get my child feeling better... counseling, medication, lifestyle changes, anything. Mental illness for the most part IS treatable, and no one deserves to suffer.

    May 10, 2011 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. worriedmom

    My mother in law is also bipolar and has borderline personality disorder and I have two young daughter (4 and 2 years old). I'm scared to death that they might have inherited this from her. She is absolutely irratic and cannot have a normal life. She had a period of time, approximately 10 years where I believe she was the best she was ever going to be. Now shes in the process of destroying her life (during an up manic phase ironically) and no one can do much to stop her. She is also addicted to a variety of pills and painkillers which obviously does nothing to help her. She does not take her disorder meds properly and often takes them with the "other" pills which I am now told actually renders them somewhat or mostly inneffective which is probably why she is suddenly dismantling her life. Anyway, many of the female members of her family are bipolar, her mother and two of her many sisters included. On my side my paternal grandmother is bi-polar.

    Anyway, I am not sorry I had children even though I believe the chances are very high that the oldest child in particular will develop this disorder. She already exhibits several key warning signs. I can only hope that early intervention, if it is needed, will help. We try to limit contact with my mother in law because we actually believe that allowing the children to spend time with her will increase the chances that they will also be bipolar. I don't know if there is any fact to support that, but either way the woman is nuts. No one in their right mind would want their child hanging out with her. She might decide to put them in her car and run off to an amusement park or alaska or something worse.

    May 11, 2011 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. jen

    The author of this response and dare I say Doctors have got to stop lumping all bipolar together and stop referring to it as manic depression - my bipolar went undiagnosed for years, until *I* correctly diagnosed myself with ultra ultra rapid cycle bipolar - it is NOT the same as regular bipolar and should not be treated as such - the years of multi anti-depressants only made my bipolar worse - it wasn't until i got off the meds and onto medical MJ that my bipolar came under control... doctors and patients need to understand better what bipolar is and isn't!

    May 11, 2011 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Lisa Tomala

    Great info, thanks!

    May 11, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Tabi

    I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in 2008. Finding the right doctor is almost if not more important than finding the right medication regiment. I went to a doctor that put me on serequel. We tried a variety of doses ranging from 25mg to 400mg. I was in and out of the hospital during this time and when I wasn't in the hospital I was too exhausted to do anything. I made the mistake of driving while exhausted and caught myself starting to drift asleep. I called my doctor because I wanted to get off this medication and try something else and she out right refused to find an alternative because my mood was better with it. Her idea was to give me provigil to keep me awake. To me that's like taking a caffine pill and drinking soda all day then needing a sleeping pill to go to sleep at night then the caffine the next day to wake me up. She had me on 5 medications most of which were in the 3rd tier for prescription drug coverage. At that point I found another doctor and began working on finding a better medication regiment. I ended up back in the hospital again and the inpatient doctor decided that I was not bi-polar and took me off all my medications and tried me on a 1st generation antidepressant that helps OCD as well as medication for a thought disorder and anxiety.

    Once out patient again my new doctor put me on lithium as well as the other drugs because the anti-depressent was not completely helping. I then began to do really well and for about 10 months there were no medication changes. However, I then began to get manic, racing thoughts, hyper-religious, and hyper-sxual. My doctor saw what was going on and took action to increase my lithium to help my manic symptoms instead of just taking what the inpatient doctor had said at face value. Yes the impatient doctor found an anti-depressent that worked really well for my thoughts and helped bring me up from a terrible depression but because my out patient doctor was proactive I was able to get the help I needed and increased number of appointments to help manage the new symptoms. It is very important to have a good relationship with your providers. And for the record I did recieve therapy and dbt sessions not just medication management.

    May 11, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Melissa

    I am bipolar and my ex-husband's mother was bipolar. I think the ex is also but has never been diagnosed. My first born child is bipolar but my second hasn't shown any symptoms yet. I was undiagnosed when I got pregnant with my son and was very depressed during my pregnancy with him. I sought treatment right after he was born so that by the time I was pregnant with my daughter I had been treated for years. After carefully weighing the risks, my obstetrician, my psychiatrist and I decided it was best that I stay on my anti-depressants while I was pregnant and I was very happy during the pregnancy. I'm not sure if this is what made the difference with the two children, if my daughter will eventually start showing symptoms, or if it is just the randomness of genetics. Best of luck to you.

    May 11, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Here and there

    The jury is very much still out on many aspects of the constellation of experiences and behaviors known as bipolar disorder. In sum, we just don't know much about its origins. Most data is correlational, not causal, and even that is very mixed. One relevant interview on this:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/side-effects/200904/bipolar-disorder-and-its-biomythology-interview-david-healy?page=2

    May 11, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Margo

    A probable bp myself,with a probable bp mother who had a probable bp mother, the line goes forward to my daughter. I have a med for myself that seems to suffice except controlling OCD. I would not suggest a treatment or how to go about getting help, that is not my field. What I do know is my daughter has found help and I'm happy for her.The right doctor and the right meds is important.search for help.

    May 17, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Bob

    Ya, and if you are crazy and belong in a loony-bin, DONT HAVE KIDS....and waste our tax dollars on your own mess....

    May 30, 2011 at 03:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Ex-parent sufferer

    http://tinyurl.com/childepression77

    February 20, 2012 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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  38. anna

    Doctors have different opinions on the heritability of bipolar disorder. My grandmother was bipolar, and I have it. No one else in the family (except a great uncle and his daughter) have it. I do not at all believe the heritability is merely 10% if one parent has it, or I can think I truly was very unlucky.

    April 23, 2014 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply

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