Please be advised that this post contains information that may trigger some persons’ reactions to nature versus nurture and bipolar illness or other psychiatric disorders.
” The available body of evidence suggests that environmental factors may either trigger or prevent the development of a psychiatric disorder. Moreover, there is some circumstantial evidence of an association between environmental factors and the clinical course of bipolar disorder.”
Environmental factors, life events, and trauma in the course of …
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › articles › PMC7167807
The data about the nature versus nurture of bipolar illness is mixed. I have seen data that suggests a 10% likelihood of bipolar illness in offspring of people with bipolar condition. But I have also seen more promising statistics that show environmental factors are extremely important in the prevalence and/or the prevention of bipolar illness diagnosis for second generation folks.
My therapist is one of those people who believes more on the nurture side of things rather than the nature side of things.
I grew up in a household where my infant brother had died before I was born. My parents also divorced in large part because of this when I was about ten years old. I felt like the replacement child that could not prevent her parents’ break-up. It is also extremely likely that I had some sort of traumatic event in my childhood like sexual abuse from a neighbor. (There also was no clear history in my family of bipolar or mental illness.)
All in all, my therapist believes I have sheltered my child from any of these occurrences and the likelihood of her developing bipolar is very low. This is incredibly reassuring to me for all the obvious reasons.
I imagine there are folks out there who believe in the nature side of things. For me the nature theory is real in that it heightens the probability of the illness occurring but does not guarantee it.
Anyone care to comment on nature versus nurture and psychiatric diagnoses?
6 thoughts on “Will I Pass on Bipolar Illness?”
I worried about it. I come from a long line of mental illness, as does my son’s father. It informed my parenting. He has ADHD and struggles with that, but because I was open about mental illness, he’s good with medication and his lifestyle accomodation. The best is no shame.
I was just trying to say that I know my parents are the reason for my illness. Neither one do any type of treatment so I feel like I’m battling this alone. I think mine was a combination of being passed from them, no stability in my life, trauma, etc. I’m doing very well and I think some of my best qualities are from having bipolar disorder. I know having this disorder feels like you are living in hell whether you are doing okay or not, but if you were to pass it to your kids at least they would have someone to teach them about it. I hope I didn’t say anything to upset you. I’m sure your kids are going to be fine.
No upset at all. I have just been attending to my daughter’s graduation this past week from high school and all the festivities that that entails. I am so sorry that your parents do not engage in self-care much. I am sure that has made a definite impact on you in that you have to create your own role models or seek them elsewhere. I do hope to be a role model for my daughter if she inherits the bipolar but I am more hopeful that this will be avoided altogether. I think that is one of the things about bipolar and other psychiatric diagnoses. Because people tend not to talk about their experiences much (except for maybe in the blogosphere) we have to create role models for ourselves out of thin air. I have my sister as an important role model but the bipolar skipped her. So, when I think about role models for me who have bipolar the list is very, very short. I wish for you extraordinary self-care and excellent access to people with bipolar illness who can talk about it and thereby make it less difficult for you to shoulder. The decision to have a child is always a huge one. I found that my views about childbirth developed and changed over the years and ultimately depended on the shared perspective of me and my husband. There were times when I was sure I wanted to adopt. There were times I was sure I wanted to engage a surrogate. In any case, when I met my husband, we talked it through in detail and we decided together to go ahead with one pregnancy but that is all. It has been a wonderous journey but a very difficult one at that. Peace and blessings to you in all things bipolar….!
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Also, I took my time with this decision-making. I did not get engaged to my husband until 38, got married at 39 and had my daughter at 40. I had been engaged once before but that did not work out in that we could not agree on childbirth next steps. After that first engagement, I was celibate for about 7 years during which time I mulled over the decision to have a child.
A child born of parents with mental illness already has the nature part sure, but the whole having parents with a mental illness statistically puts them at greater risk of experiencing Adverse Childhood Events which leads to a whole host of health issues including I’m willing to bet setting of latent Bipolar Disorder. I got the double whammy, I’ve got maternal and paternal relatives with major depressive disorder and bipolar. Thanks to that I grew up in a chaotic single parent household and took on a whole dumper truck load of generational trauma. I grew up with love, and lots of it, but it wasn’t enough to stop the nurture part from making the nature part rear its ugly head.
As for my children and passing it on, forewarned is forearmed. I’m acutely aware of being careful not to repeat the mistakes of my ancestors (I get to make my own!). And if despite the most loving secure and stable home I can provide my child/ren develops a mental illness, then she’ll already have the best peer support going in she shape of her mother.
Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like you’ve really thought things through.