Understanding of bipolar disorder (previously known as manic depression) has grown in the UK in recent years. Stephen Fry made a well received TV documentary about living with the condition, and a major storyline in EastEnders has shown Stacey and her mum Jean coping with it.
Now new research from the US has attempted to shed more light on what it means to be a bipolar parent, and how likely it is that the condition will be inherited by their children.
The study, published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry concludes that young children with a bipolar parent are eight times more likely than other children to develop ADHD and six times more likely to develop two or more mental disorders.
Researchers led by Dr. Boris Birmaher, of the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, compared 121 children (ages 2 to 5) from 83 bipolar parents with 102 children of the same age from 65 parents with no bipolar symptoms. In the second group, they also excluded parents who had ever been diagnosed with other mental disorders.
They found that children of bipolar parents had more significant manic and depressive symptoms than the other children, noting that: "The single largest risk factor for the development of bipolar disorder is a positive family history of the disorder."
Speaking to Reuters Health, Dr Birmaher said that early detection of mental disorders is important. He added that early intervention to help under-fives regulate their moods has been effective in dealing with disruptive behaviour and coping with later signs of mood disorders.
If you're a parent with bipolar disorder in need of support, you can contact Equilibrium - The Bipolar Foundation.
Source [ParentDish US]