No one really knows what causes bipolar disorder, but there are several known possibilities. Some of the circumstances include genetic inheritance, brain chemistry, life events, substance abuse, and childhood trauma. I’ve always wondered what caused my bipolar disorder and if it was it something that could have been avoided. In my case, and in most cases, there are multiple situations that cause bipolar disorder. For me, I think that all of the known possible causes had something to do with the reasons for my bipolar disorder.
Genetic inheritance definitely had a part in my bipolar disorder. My father had a brother and a sister that both had some form of mental health disorder. I don’t know what the diagnosis was, if any, but I do know that they used to and still do struggle with mental health. There is also at least one person on my mother’s side that deals with depression. Having family members that deals with mental health makes it more likely that I would have some form of mental illness because it’s something that could have been inherited.
Individuals with bipolar disorder also often have different brain chemistry than those without bipolar disorder; their brains often work differently allowing them to be predisposed to both manic and depressive episodes. The brain structure of those with bipolar disorder is different from those without bipolar. This may help doctors diagnose and treat bipolar in the future.
Certain life events can also be a cause of bipolar disorder because of the stress that they cause. I had a fantastic childhood with loving parents. I felt loved every moment of every day. The only life event that could have had an effect was the diagnosis of my father’s cancer when I was 12 years old and his death when I was 18 years old. It was very hard for me; my father was my best friend. Stressful life events can cause manic or depressive episodes; they can also influence kids, such as myself, to turn to drugs or alcohol.
Substance abuse most likely played a huge part in my mental health diagnosis. I did anything and everything that was available; all I wanted to do was forget how I was feeling. I used drugs and alcohol to the extreme from the ages of 12 to 19, when I got sober. Gratefully, I’m now coming up on 12 years sober, which probably makes a big difference in the treatment of my bipolar disorder.
Childhood trauma is also a factor for many. The traumatic events I experienced were in my teenage years. I lost my father at age 18. I was also in a physical and emotionally abusive relationship from the age of 17 to 18. That year and a half was difficult for me; it has also made the rest of my life exceptionally difficult. I still have many fears and am hesitant to do a lot of things because of events that occurred during that relationship.
Over the years, I wondered what happened; how could such a happy childhood turn into such a difficult life. I had a wonderful childhood; I was pretty popular in school, I had a great relationship with my entire family, and we were lucky enough to have more than necessary. I used to wonder if maybe I did something differently in my life, then I wouldn’t have ended up with this diagnosis. I used to think that it was my fault, that I was to blame for my mental health problems. However, after writing this post, I realized that I experienced most of the possible circumstance that could cause mental illness. It wouldn’t have mattered what I did, I was bound to end up diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s no one’s fault. No one is responsible for their mental health diagnoses. What we are responsible for is helping ourselves get better over time. We can take control of our disorders; it’s not easy, but it is possible.