Is Bipolar Illness Recessive or Dominant?

By Shelby Redfield

A severe illness, bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, causes extreme highs and lows. The episodes of deep depression and elated happiness are different for each person, concerning the degree of severity and length of the mood swings. The causes of bipolar illness is very complex. It is not as simple as labeling the illness as being recessive or dominant. Genetic and environmental factors all play a part in triggering bipolar disorder, usually a disease that develops in young adulthood.


Bipolar disorder type I: severe mood swings that happen over and over again Bipolar disorder type II: mood swings that are not as severe as type I Bipolar disorder type III: quickly changing severe mood swings, that can reverse several times in one day.

Environmental Factors

Illness, stressful traumatic events, dramatic changes in sleeping patterns and, or substance abuse are all believed to be possible contributing factors in triggering bipolar disorder. More than half of the patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder have had issues with substance abuse in their past, according to Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.

Genetic Factors

The Mayo Clinic reports that 60% of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder have had one or more family members who also had the disease. A child has a 15-30% chance of developing bipolar disorder if one parent has the disease, jumping to 50-75% risk of development if both parents have the illness, according to the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF). When conducting research on twins growing up in separate environments, results have revealed a strong correlation between identical twins with a predisposition for bipolar disorder based on their family history that is very similar, notes Dr. Martin Alda. Also, Dr. Alda adds that adoptees with a family history of bipolar disorder have an increased risk of developing the illness versus adoptees without any genetic ties to the disease. Gale Encyclopedia of Genetic Disorders claims that there is about a 70% chance that identical twins will develop bipolar disorder if both parents have the disease.

Dominant or Recessive?

Bipolar disorder is not brought on by one gene dominating another. However, studies have shown that there are certain chromosomes, housing mutated genes, found in most patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to Gale Encyclopedia of Genetic Disorders. Chromosomes are structures built within our human cells. The susceptible genes in combination with environmental factors contribute to the development of bipolar disorder.


Treating bipolar disorder is a life long endeavor. A mixture of medications and psychotherapy will allow for a 'normal' lifestyle. Mood stabilizers, antidepressants and sleep medications are suggested medications to use, reported by Healthline Networks Inc.

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