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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Bipolar disorder


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Bipolar affective disorder
  • Bipolar illness
  • Major affective disorder
  • Manic depression
  • Manic-depressive psychosis
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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

  1. Clement C Zai. Genetics of Bipolar Disorder. eMedicine. June 14, 2011; Accessed 11/21/2011.
  2. Bipolar Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. September 28, 2011; Accessed 11/18/2011.