“I have Bipolar II. Today in class I was learning about genetics and I was wondering how likely Bipolar disorder is to appear in my child if I have one. Also, can it appear as a more extreme version than mine? Is my child definitely doomed to have what I have?”
First let me say, there are studies out there that will tell you what you want to hear; percentages, ratios and a bunch of numbers. For example, according to Boris Birmaher, M.D., of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and colleagues during a study they performed taking a set number of offspring from Bipolar parents and then a set number of offspring from NON-bipolar parents and collecting the family psychiatric history, they observed them and what they found might alarm you. They discovered that 10.6% of the children with one bipolar parent were likely to develop Bipolar Disorder or some form of mood or anxiety disorder vs. 0.8 percent of children with NON-bipolar parents developing the same illnesses. In situations where both parents were Bipolar the percentage of children who developed Bipolar disorder went up to 28.6 percent. The numbers are frightening when you look at it that way. 10% may sound like a low enough number to some but when you’re talking about this kind of illness that is a lot to think about.
Food for thought: My father was mentally ill although never properly diagnosed. I have a younger brother and an older sister. My sister suffers from anxiety and depression although she has never sought help further than her PCP. My brother has been known to get a little depressed over the years from time to time but who hasn’t once in while in life, right? That’s life. No big deal there. I on the other hand have dealt with an eating disorder when I was a teenager, Alcohol & drug abuse, Major depression, Anxiety and eventually got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I was the lucky one. Now my sister has two daughters who are young adults with families of their own and they are relatively normal (if anyone is ever truly ‘normal’). I have two young daughters. My 8 yr old suffers from low self-esteem but that in part is because my other daughter takes up so much of my time. I have made a great effort over the last few years to spend quality time with her even if it isn’t quantity.
Your other question was ‘can it appear as a more extreme version than mine?’ Let me tell you about my 11 yr old daughter. When she was diagnosed she was 7yrs old. She was diagnosed with early onset bipolar. When she was 8yrs old she made her first suicide attempt because the “voices told her to” they said it would be ok. She spent two weeks in the hospital and came out with a new diagnosis, Bipolar with Psychotic features to go along with her now ADHD, Anxiety disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I thought things were going ok, but by the time she was ten almost exactly two years after the last time she started talking about dying again and seeing some man that looked like a demon and he wanted her to kill herself. We are Christians and my daughter is saved. This was very scary to all of us. When it became clear that I no longer had the situation under control I did the only thing I knew to do, I took her back to the hospital. There they adjusted her medications and tried new ones and the scary man went away. Once again she came out of the hospital with a new diagnosis, Schizo affective disorder. If you haven’t hear of this illness before let me give you the run down. It’s similar to Bipolar with psychotic features except the auditory and/or visual hallucinations are worse and the survival rate is lower because statistically a lot of people with this illness commit suicide.
If you want children don’t let the statistics some professor drummed up in his lab stop you. My children have been the best gift I have ever received. I don’t know where I would be without them. They have brought me through some really hard times and kept me smiling. When I’m feeling exceptionally low there is no pill that works better than the arms of my girls around my neck. I can’t imagine ever missing out on that. Yes, my little girl has been through some rough times but we are going through them together and it has brought us closer together. It has made us stronger as a family. We are one protective unit of each other. There may be many rough roads ahead but we’ll face them all together. That’s what family is all about.