Bipolar Disorder: The Causes and the Cure

Bipolar disorder can be a scary diagnosis, leaving many to wonder why they or their loved one has developed the disorder. No one really knows exactly what causes bipolar disorder, but one thing is certain: It is not the person’s fault. It is a combination of genetic, environmental and neurochemical factors that — without the person’s control — converge to play a role in the onset and progression of bipolar disorder.

What causes bipolar disorder?

Despite numerous studies, the cause of bipolar disorder remains unknown, but research suggests the following factors work together to play a role in the onset of bipolar disorder:

Genetic Factors

Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Children who have a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the disorder compared with children who do not have a family history of bipolar disorder, and about half the people with bipolar disorder have a family member with a mood disorder, such as depression. But just because a family member is bipolar, does not mean that you or your child will be too. Most children with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness, and scientists are still researching the role genetics play in bipolar disorder.

Neurochemical Factors

Bipolar disorder occurs in a specific area of the brain and is caused by an imbalance of naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Environmental Factors

Bipolar disorder is considered a predominantly biological disorder, which means it may lie dormant until it is activated spontaneously or it is triggered by external factors such as extreme stress. There are several environmental factors that are believed to trigger bipolar disorder in persons with a genetic disposition for the disorder. These factors include events that produce major stress, such as abuse, trauma or significant loss; hormonal problems; and alcohol or drug abuse.

How is bipolar disorder treated?

There are a variety of effective treatment options available for bipolar disorder, including medication, psychotherapy and holistic therapies.

The most popular forms of bipolar medication are Mood Stabilizers (such as Lithium, Depakote, Lamictal, Topamax, etc.), Atypical Antipsychotic Medications (such as Zyprexa, Abilify, Seroquel, Risperdal, etc.), and Antidepressants (such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, etc.).

In addition to medication, psychotherapy — or “talk” therapy — can be very effective at preventing bipolar disorder episodes. Some psychotherapy treatments used in bipolar treatment are cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and psychoeducation.

Some people have found success at preventing bipolar disorder symptoms with holistic treatments like herbal supplements. There is little research about the effects of herbal supplements on bipolar disorder, yet some people report experiencing marginal relief by taking the herb St. John’s wort and increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which is most commonly found in fish oil. It is very important, however, to talk with a doctor before taking any herbal or natural supplements because there is a serious risk of interactions with other medications.

If you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek help right away. You don’t have to suffer in shame and silence. Many people have successfully prevented the severity of their bipolar disorder by understanding their illness and receiving treatment.

At Casa Palmera, we understand how difficult it is to suffer from mental illness and a substance abuse problem. Our caring staff is highly skilled and trained at helping men overcome their addiction to drugs or alcohol while at the same time addressing the mental health issues underlying the substance abuse. Don’t suffer in silence any longer.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.