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Bipolar Disorder (Children and Adolescents)

How Hereditary is Bipolar Disorder?

01/19/2005

Question:

My 15 year old daughter has been involved with a 15 year old boy for about two years now. She cares very deeply for him, but his mood swings are many and often. He goes from being funny, caring, wanting to be around her every day, to being hateful, mean, not wanting anything to do with her, not talking to her, etc.,. this process has repeated itself over and over many times. It is very hard on all of us. When he`s good, he`s wonderful and we care about him also. His father has been diagnosed with rapid cycling- bipolar disorder. How possible is it that he also has this problem? Is this behavior indicative of being bipolar?

Answer:

Thank you for your question. His behavior could indicate possible bipolar disorder, especially since bipolar disorder runs in families. However, not all the offspring of parents with this disorder develop the disorder themselves, only about 5-10%. So having a parent with bipolar disorder doesn't mean the child will definitely have it too. The only way to find out if someone has bipolar or any psychiatric disorder is to get a comprehensive and detailed psychological assessment from a trained mental health professional.

Keep in mind that having a parent with bipolar disorder can also be very stressful for the child/teen because sometimes the parent is "emotionally there" for the child/teen and other times not. This could lead to future problems in how the child/teen relates to other people (e.g., your daughter), sometimes being "emotionally there" and sometimes not.

You obviously care about this boy and his relationship with your daughter. You may want to gently express to him your concern about his behavior, ask him his thoughts on the matter and talk with him about seeing a mental health professional.

I hope my answer helps.  Best wishes.

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Response by:

Nicholas   Lofthouse, PhD Nicholas Lofthouse, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University