Question: Are there any diseases or conditions that might increase my risk of developing bipolar disorder?
Answer: There are a number of conditions that have been associated with bipolar illness; however, no single condition is necessarily the cause of bipolar illness.
For example, anxiety disorders -- such as obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia -- are sometimes seen in persons who suffer from bipolar illness. Similarly, chemical dependency and alcohol abuse are very commonly seen in people with bipolar illness.
In the case of the latter two -- chemical dependency or chemical substance abuse and alcohol abuse -- those factors may actually make the illness more malignant. Thus, in someone who is at risk of bipolar illness -- who has the genetic vulnerability for bipolar illness -- it is possible that substance abuse, especially early in life, may make the illness either come on earlier or predispose for a more malignant course of illness over the person's lifetime.