Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Print friendly version

Bipolar disorder


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Bipolar affective disorder
  • Bipolar illness
  • Major affective disorder
  • Manic depression
  • Manic-depressive psychosis
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

Where can I find the latest information about genetic testing for bipolar disorder?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

Is bipolar disorder inherited?

The cause of mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, remains unclear. Studies have strongly suggested that genetics play an important role in the development of mood disorders, but there is no clear pattern of inheritance. They are likely caused by the interaction of several genes with environmental factors (called complex or multifactorial inheritance).[1] In the general population (i.e. for individuals with no close family history), the risk to develop manic depressive illness is about 2-3%. Children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are approximately four to six times more likely to develop the illness, compared with children who do not have a family history of bipolar disorder. However, most children with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness.[2]

eMedicine has an article with more detailed information about the genetics of bipolar disorder. Click here to view this article.
Last updated: 11/21/2011

Is genetic testing available for bipolar disorder?

Studies of thousands of affected individuals have identified a number of "risk genes" (also called susceptibility genes) for bipolar disorder (i.e. genes in which changes appear to increase a person's risk to develop the disorder). However, none of these genes have been shown to have a strong enough effect on a person's risk to warrant clinical genetic testing for affected individuals.[1]

GeneTests lists the names of laboratories that are performing research genetic testing for bipolar disorder. To access the contact information for the research laboratories performing genetic testing, click here. Please note that most of the laboratories listed through GeneTests do not accept direct contact from patients and their families; therefore, if you are interested in learning more, you will need to work with a health care provider or a genetics professional.
Last updated: 11/21/2011

Where can I find the most up-to-date information about genetic testing for bipolar disorder?

You can find relevant articles on genetics and bipolar disorder through PubMed, a searchable database of biomedical journal articles. Although not all of the articles are available for free online, most articles listed in PubMed have a summary available. To obtain the full article, contact a medical/university library or your local library for interlibrary loan. You can also order articles online through the publisher’s Web site. Using " genetic testing for bipolar disorder" as your search term should help you locate articles. Use the "limits" or "advanced" search features to narrow your search results. Click here to view a search.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the National Library of Medicine, developed to provide patients, family members, and members of the public with current information on clinical research studies. Currently, there are a few clinical trials involving genetic testing that are identified as completed or enrolling individuals with bipolar disorder. To find these trials, click on the link above and use "genetic AND bipolar disorder" as your search term. Use the study’s contact information to learn more. Check this site often for regular updates.

GeneTests lists laboratories that are currently offering research genetic testing for bipolar condition. Research genetic tests may be used to find disease-causing genes, learn how genes work, or aid in the understanding of a genetic disorder. This site may be checked periodically for updates to the listing.

A genetics consultation can provide answers to many of the questions individuals have regarding genetic disorders and family histories, including questions about genetic testing. To view information about genetics consultations, click here.
Last updated: 11/21/2011

How can I find a genetics professional in my area?

Genetics clinics are a source of information for individuals and families regarding genetic conditions, treatment, inheritance, and genetic risks to other family members. More information about genetic consultations is available from Genetics Home Reference. To find a genetics clinic, we recommend that you contact your primary healthcare provider for a referral.

The following online resources can help you find a genetics professional in your community:
Last updated: 10/18/2013