Childhood Abuse May Increase Risk of Developing Bipolar Disorder

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Those who experienced abuse as children may face a heightened risk for developing bipolar disorder later in life, according to new research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

“The link between experiencing a troubled childhood and subsequently being diagnosed with this serious condition is extremely strong,” said study co-author Filippo Varese from the University of Manchester in England in a press release.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by periods of emotional extremes, both low and high. It can also include a high risk of suicide or reckless behavior.

For the study, Varese’s team reviewed 19 studies published from 1980 to 2014 focusing on childhood adversity. Specifically, the studies defined childhood adversity as experiencing neglect, abuse, bullying, or loss of a parent before reaching the age of 19.

According to their findings, adults with bipolar disorder were more than twice as likely to also have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as children when compared to adults in the general population.

The researchers noted the link between bipolar disorder and emotional abuse was the strongest, while loss of a parent was not associated with a significantly increased risk.

While the study was unable to establish a direct relationship, the team believes the findings could help improve screening for bipolar disorder and detect those most at risk at earlier ages.

“Handled sensitively, inquiries about a person’s childhood experiences can make a significant difference to how treatment proceeds and the types of support that can be put into place,” study lead author Jasper Palmier-Claus said in the news release.

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