Bipolar Risk Factors

Bipolar Risk Factors

I suppose that I’ve been in my head a lot lately. I’m trying to figure out the answers to some questions that probably can’t be answered. However, I’m going to try to find some sort of answer because that’s the kind of mood that I’m in right now. I want to know the answer to the question, “why me?” I think about this a lot, but I’ve never actually tried to really figure it all out. Bipolar disorder is not caused by any one single thing; it is instead caused by multiple factors.

The following is general information regarding bipolar causes and risk factors.  The information below is not advice, and should not be treated that way.

Family History and Genetics: Individuals that have bipolar disorder in their families are more likely to develop bipolar disorder themselves. This is especially true for individuals with a parent or sibling with bipolar. This doesn’t mean that people with a family history of bipolar will develop the disorder themselves. Also, individuals with certain genetics are also more likely to develop bipolar disorder.

I know that personally, there are mental health issues on my father’s side of the family. His sister and one of his brothers have known mental health diagnoses, but I’m not sure what they are. There is also someone on my mother’s side that struggles with depression. I know that there is no one diagnosed with bipolar disorder on my mother’s side. Neither of my parents has/had mental health issues.

Brain Structure: Individuals that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder often have physical changes to the structure of their brains. There is often a natural imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain of an individual who has bipolar disorder. I’m not sure if it would ever be possible, but it would be great if doctors could eventually find out which individuals are more prone to developing bipolar disorder. Maybe it’s already possible, I’m not exactly sure.

Common Issues: There are many types of issues that are known to trigger the first bipolar episode in individuals. These factors include but are not limited to high stress periods, drug and alcohol abuse, major life changes, and traumatic experiences.

I experienced all of these situations. My father was diagnosed with cancer; he lived for several years with the illness before dying. I used drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to feel my emotions. Because of my drug abuse, I met a guy that ended up being very abusive towards me for about 18 months. They may have triggered an episode, but they didn’t cause my bipolar disorder. My bipolar was there to begin with, and these situations probably just helped it come out.

Co-Occurring Conditions: Many individuals that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder often have other conditions such as PTSD, ADHD, various anxiety disorders, drug and/or alcohol abuse, and physical health issues. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to have both physical and mental health conditions.

I’m also diagnosed with PTSD, I’m 12 years sober from drugs and alcohol, and I have a variety of physical health issues.

There are many factors that contribute to individuals being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, just because some has one or even several of these causes/risk factors, doesn’t mean they have or will end up having bipolar disorder.

I Completed My WRAP Plan

I Completed My WRAP Plan

I finally completed my Wellness Recovery Action Plan today; even though I started it over a month ago. I did complete most of it on my own, but I brought it to Connecticut with me so I could get some input from my mom. She was my caregiver for many years, and often still is, which gives her a different perspective than I have. She had some really great insights and ideas that I added to my plan.

My WRAP consists of a wellness toolbox, daily maintenance lists, what I’m like when I’m well, identifying my triggers, what to do if my triggers arise, a list of my early warning signs, symptoms that mean I’m getting worse, what to do when I’m declining, questions to ask myself, my crisis plan, who I give permission to make decisions for me, meds I refuse to take, what hospital to take me to, what to do if someone feels I’m in danger, and many more things. There is also a whole other section to be completed during or after a crisis, called post crisis planning.

The wellness toolbox is just a list of tools that I’ve found to be helpful for me. Some examples I listed are to listen to the song Jennifer’s Rabbit (my mom used to sing it to me when I was a child), cook, play the piano, or look through old photos. I also had to come up with a description of what I’m like when I’m feeling well. Some examples are that I sleep well, I don’t ignore my duties, and I’m willing to try things with the help of others. I also had to make a list of things I need to do for myself every day, weekly, monthly, and periodically. Examples range from taking medication daily, cleaning the house weekly, seeing my doctors monthly, and visiting family every 3 months.

I identified triggers that made my symptoms worse such as being in crowds, feeling judged, and a lack of sleep. I have a list of what to do when these triggers occur, like stand with my back to the wall in a crowd, tell my doctors when my sleep is off, and walk away when feeling judged. A list of helpful activities includes blogging, playing Sudoku, and taking the dog for a walk.

It also has a list for early warning signs which include increased negativity, increased foul language, and uncontrollable emotions. Things I need to do when I see these early warning signs are call my doctors, use my wellness tools, and take my medications. Other lists are about symptoms I have when I’m breaking down or getting worse. Some of my examples are extreme paranoia, hallucinations increase, and not making sense when I talk. A few of the things than might help at this point are to keep track of all symptoms, contact my doctor, and make sure the problems are not due to side effects. I also need to ask myself questions such as, ‘Am I rational and reasonable? Do my meds need adjusting? Do I need to consider hospitalization?’

There is also a crisis plan that goes over many of the same aspects; however, it also has a section for who should take over. I was able to make it clear that if I cannot take care of myself properly, then my husband, mother, and psychiatrist are allowed to make decisions for me. My one stipulation is that my husband and mother must agree on the treatments. I can also list who I don’t want involved in my treatment. Personally, I wrote that only my husband, mother, and psychiatrist have permission; no other family member or friend can make any decisions for me. WRAP also has a section on medications. I wrote in my current meds, dosages, and reason for taking them. I also wrote in what meds I refuse to take, and what meds I’m open to taking. I also said that I’m only open to other treatments that my husband and mother choose after doing thorough research. I wrote in which psych hospital I want to go to, and which one to never send me to.

The WRAP crisis plan is very thorough. I hope that I never have to use it, but it’s nice to have it, signed by my husband and mother, so I know that I will receive the treatment I want and need. Not only does it provide comfort to me because I know that my wishes are clearly stated and understood, but it also makes it easier for my husband and mother if and when they need to take over making decisions for me. I know that being a caregiver is an extremely difficult job; by completing my WRAP, I am attempting to make their lives easier.

I highly recommend that everyone who is diagnosed with a mental health illness take the time and complete a Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Hopefully you would never need to use it, but it’s nice to know it’s there just in case.