Can Having Relatives With Depression, Alcoholism Or Other Psychiatric Conditions Increase My Risk Of Bipolar Disorder?

Dr. Susan Stagno answers the question: 'Bipolar Risk With Depressed Relatives?'

— -- Question: Can having relatives with depression, alcoholism or other psychiatric conditions increase my risk of getting bipolar disorder?

Answer: Yes, there is definitely a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder, so if you have relatives who have problems with depression, mood swings, or things like substance abuse -- alcoholism or other substances -- you definitely can be at higher risk for bipolar disorder.

What we know that is, even though you may for example have two parents who have bipolar disorder, you don't have a 100 percent chance of getting bipolar disorder yourself. But you're at very high risk.

So there is not a full-penetrance of genetic predisposition, but certainly it's there.

One of the very important things to be aware of, is that many people who are experiencing problems with addictive disorders -- whether that be alcoholism, cocaine, marijuana, or other substances -- may in fact be trying to treat their own mood symptoms.

So, people who experience a lot of depression, or irritable mood, or anxiety, may be using the substances to try to treat themselves and in the process of that, they develop an addictive disorder.

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