The Latest Bipolar Research Finds New Genetic Risk Factors and More

The Latest Bipolar Disorder Research

Bipolar Disorder ResearchThe following are summaries related to new research on various bipolar disorder studies and reports.

Using Marijuana in Your Teens Increases Your Risk for Bipolar Disorder

Research has previously established a link between marijuana use and psychiatric conditions. A new study out of the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom now confirms marijuana use in your teens contributes to the development of bipolar over time.

Researchers specifically looked at the link between marijuana and hypomania, a symptom experienced by people with bipolar. Hypomania causes intense excitement, reduced sleep need, hyperactivity and feelings of excitement.

Researchers examined data on 3,370 study participants and analyzed the connection between marijuana use and the development of hypomania a few years later. They found that the link depended on the amount of marijuana used, with weekly usage being most associated with hypomania.

Bipolar Disorder Genetic Risk Combined with Traumatic Stress Leads to Increased Suicide Risk

A new study reported in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds people who are genetically susceptible to bipolar and who have also experienced traumatic stress have an increased risk for suicide. The researchers suggest the type of traumatic stress associated with the increased risk included bullying, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.

The results came from data of 307 children whose parents have bipolar disorder, and 166 children of parents without specific psychiatric conditions. Blood samples were collected, and DNA extracted.


Genetic risk scores aimed to explain how genes and environment contributed to self-harm.  The young people studied had not yet developed bipolar, but results showed those with a genetic risk and traumatic experiences had suicidal thoughts and self-harm attempts.

Workplace Support Needed for People with Bipolar Disorder

According to a new study out of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, workplace support is lacking for people with bipolar. Stigma, exclusion, and stereotypes in the workplace are to blame and eventually lead to job loss.

When workers disclose their conditions to employers and co-workers to receive accommodations afforded to them by law, they are often met with negative responses. The University of Michigan researchers suggests disclosure puts a person’s job at risk.

The study participants answered questions about the relationship between social stressors, such as conflict, isolation, and stigma, and how they affect a person’s ability to do their job. The more stressors experienced, the more likely individuals will experience greater work impairments.

The results, according to the researchers, highlight the need to intervene in relationships between supervisors and coworkers.

Bipolar Disorders Biomarkers Might Differ By Gender

Researchers from Penn State University in Pennsylvania, have found men and women’s immune systems respond differently to bipolar disorder.

Researchers measured zinc and neopterin levels from the blood of male and female hospital patients experiencing manic or depressive episodes and compared them to blood samples from healthy controls. Neopterin promotes white blood cells in the immune system, and zinc helps the immune system to function.

Researchers found variances between men and women in depressive symptoms and manic episode severity.   Depression in women was worse due to high levels or zinc while mania in men worsened with higher levels of neopterin.

The results suggest the future possibility of diagnosing bipolar by measuring biological changes in the body, and tailoring treatments specific to each gender.

Early Symptoms Can Predict Bipolar Disorder

A new analysis of 39 studies reported in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry finds two patterns of early psychiatric symptoms that could identify young people are at risk for bipolar disorder.

The authors of the report suggest early symptoms are low indicators of future development of the disease, but a pattern of early signs increases risk with “high specificity.” The study’s findings link additional risk factors for developing bipolar disorder, including premature birth, head injury, drug exposure, sexual or physical abuse and stress, but these only increase risk slightly.

While other studies have reported patterns of prodromal (a period between the appearance of initial symptoms and the full disease development) symptoms and risk factors, this study confirms the reliability of this theory.

With further study, patterns and risk factors can lead to the identification of young people likely to develop bipolar and who may benefit from early invention.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder Are Now Better Known

After more than a decade studying 1,100 bipolar patients, researchers from the University of Michigan think they know what causes the condition. They have found that no one genetic factor, chemical imbalance, or life event causes every case of bipolar disorder.

In fact, every patient with bipolar varies from all the others. Even so, experiences fall into seven classes of characteristics.

The researchers collected and analyzed data over many years, about genes, emotions, life experiences, medical histories, sleep patterns, thought patterns, etc., in over 1,000 study participants, 730 who had bipolar disorder.

The seven characteristics, called pseudoclasses, include measurements doctors already use to diagnose and track bipolar disorder. They also include:

  • Cognitive changes – thinking, reasoning, and emotions
  • Psychological characteristics – personality and temperament
  • Motivated behaviors related to substance use
  • Patient experiences, including traumas, abuse, and family and intimate relationships
  • Sleep patterns and biological sleep processes
  • Symptoms over time and response to treatment

While bipolar tends to run in families, the U-M researchers did not find any gene that is specifically related to the development of bipolar.

Next page: Additional bipolar disorder research you need to know about.

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