Having Bipolar Parents Can Be (Who Knew?) Stressful

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Special Needs, Behavior, Health

bipolar parents

Imagine dealing with the vacillations and contradictions of someone else's bipolar disorder when you're a kid. Credit: Getty Images

Parents can be stressful. They're really annoying and they go about saying stupid and embarrassing things. Now research suggests kids are even more stressed out when their parents are bipolar.

No, they're not. Yes, they are. No, they're not. Yes! No! YES!

You see the problem.

Imagine dealing with the vacillations and contradictions of someone else's bipolar disorder when you're a kid -- especially when the someone else is your parent.

So the study by researchers at the Concordia University in Montreal linking parents' bipolar disorders to their children's stress may seem like something of a no-brainer.

But according to a press release posted on EurekAlert.com,researchers measured and quantified that stress scientifically. What they found is that cortisol, a stress hormone, shoots up in kids when their parents are bipolar.

"Previous research has shown that children of parents with bipolar disorder are four times as likely to develop mood disorders as those from parents without the condition," senior researcher Mark Ellenbogen, Canada research chair in developmental psychopathology at Concordia, says in the press release.

"The goal of our study was to determine how this is happening," he adds.

Researchers previously measured cortisol levels in kids. In this study, they followed up with the same kids now that that they are in their late teens and early adulthoods.

Their cortisol levels were still elevated. This could mean they'll have emotional problems.

"Our study demonstrates that affected children are biologically more sensitive to the experience of stress in their natural and normal environment compared to their peers," says Ellenbogen in the release. "This higher reactivity to stress might be one explanation of why these offspring end up developing disorders and is a clear risk factor to becoming ill later on.

"We think we might be beginning to understand where we can intervene to actually prevent this increased sensitivity from developing," he adds.

"We believe this sensitivity develops during childhood and our suspicion is that if you could teach both parents and their offspring on how to cope with stress, how to deal with problems before they turn into larger significant stressors and difficulties, this would have a profound impact."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.