Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are mental illnesses hereditary?"
My wife and I want to have a child, but I'm worried about the fact that I have bipolar disorder. Does having a mental illness or a mood disorder like bipolar disorder make me more likely to have a child with the same problems? If so, I would seriously reconsider.
Bipolar disorder is a complex disorder. It can be difficult to say anything regarding the disorder that would apply to all patients. I would encourage you to talk to your psychiatrist or mental health professional regarding your concerns. To answer you question, Bipolar Disorder is somewhat hereditary. By somewhat we mean that children of people with bipolar disorder are more likely to have bipolar disorder or another mood disorder (such as major depressive disorder). That being said, it is not 100%. Different people will quote different statistics but in general: If one parent has bipolar disorder, then there is approximately a 15 to 20% chance that the child will have bipolar or a mood disorder. If both parents have it, then there is likely a 50 - 70 % chance of having bipolar or another mood disorder. That being said, we do not completely understand the genetics of bipolar disorder. There is no one gene that causes the disorder so its hard to know what the cause is. We do not know if it is all genetics, or if the environment in which people are raised also influences bipolar disorder. Therefore, if your bipolar is well treated, you may decrease your child's risk. I would encourage you to talk to your doctor.
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