Should You Adopt a Child When the Birth Parents Have Bipolar Disorder?

Troubled unhappy child whose birth parents may have bipolar disorder leans on swing seat
Bipolar disorder affects millions of people worldwide. There are several treatment options available for those suffering bipolar and though this is a serious mental illness, with the proper treatment those afflicted may lead completely normal lives.

It is believed that genetics do play a part in if a person will develop bipolar, though most relatives of a person afflicted with this illness will never develop bipolar disorder. If one parent has bipolar disorder, the risk of their baby developing a bipolar disorder is approximately five percent. It can be as high as 14 percent if other relatives, such as an aunt or uncle, also are diagnosed. In the unusual case where both parents have bipolar disorder, the risk to offspring is approximately 30 percent, but can increase slightly if other relatives are bipolar too.

Symptoms usually develop around the age of 25, but can develop as early as puberty. Bipolar disorder carries an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Bipolar disorder includes four main mood episodes – Mania, Hypomania, Depression, and Mixed Mood. People who experience at least four of these episodes a year, which last a week or more, may have bipolar disorder.

  • Manic Episode (Mania) is a distinct period during which there is an abnormally and constantly elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week.
  • Hypomanic Episode (Hypomania) is a milder form of mania that lasts at least four days.
  • Major Depressive Episode (Depression) is a period during which there is either depressed mood or the loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities, lasting for at least two weeks.
  • Mixed Episode is a period of time during which a person experiences both manic and major depressive symptoms nearly every day for at least one week.

If you are considering adopting a child that has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or may have a possibility of developing bipolar disorder, it is important that you learn as much as you can about the illness. Caring for someone with this disorder can be challenging for parents and it is important that you keep in mind that they will need as much loving support and understanding that you can give them.

Ultimately, the decision to adopt a child where one or both of the birth parents may have bipolar disorder lies exclusively with you. Research is being done to improve treatment. The best person to speak to about bipolar is your pediatrician. Also, you can check with national organizations specializing in bipolar and manic depression. There is no guarantee that your child will also suffer from this disorder. You will have to consider, if your child is diagnosed with being borderline bipolar, can you handle the special issues associated with raising a child who has with this disorder? Will you be able to give them the support, patience and love that they will need?

It is also important to remember that just because the parents have bipolar does not necessarily mean that their child will have the disorder. Many parents have passed on adoption situations because of something that was unfamiliar to them, so do research and ask questions of professionals before saying no to an adoption situation.

About The Author

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is an adoptive mother, award-winning author, and an internationally recognized adoption professional.

Founding Lifetime Adoption Center in 1986, she has helped complete thousands of adoptions nationwide. Caldwell often reminds prospective parents that “there is a baby for you,” acknowledging that there is truly a child for everyone who seeks to adopt. Her adoption center accepts applications at no cost from parents seeking to adopt.

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