Unipolar and Bipolar Disorders



Bipolar disorders are characterized by a serious of attacks of elation and depression, with periods of relative normality in between. There are two types of bipolar disorders, type I and type II that differ slightly in their symptomatology and commonality. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by full-blown manic and major depressive episodes and it is less common than bipolar II disorder, which is characterized by clear-cut hypomanic and major depressive episodes.

It has been proven that unipolar and bipolar disorders develop due to biopsychosocial factors. Specifically, family studies have found that the prevalence of unipolar disorders is about three times higher between blood relatives of people suffering from these illnesses. In addition, personality and cognitive diatheses play a major role in the development of depression. For example, neuroticism is a trait that is closely linked to sadness, anxiety, and guilt. Thus, people who have it in higher levels they are more prone to experiencing negative moods. Moreover, poverty and unemployment are considered to be risk factors for depression, as they are stressful life events. One protective factor against depression would be resilience, which refers to the fact that some people facing adversities nonetheless do well. Bipolar disorders also result due to the interplay between genes, neurobiology, stress and psychological vulnerability. Having said that, the most dominant factor of all is the biological one. Specifically, a study by McGuffin et al. (2003), revealed that ´´67% of monozygotic twins with bipolar disorder has a co-twin who shared the same diagnosis´´. Additionally, some neurohormonal imbalances have been identified as risk factors for bipolar disorders, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, along with deficits in activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Moreover, stressful life events are factors that precipitate manic, depressive or mixed episodes. On the others hand, the family can have a protective factor against bipolar disorders, as especially the mother/child relationship plays a pivotal role in the development of this illness.

In conclusion, the developmental pathway is the combination of risk and protective factors that generate or hinder maladaptation, along with the individual´s way of processing and responding actively or passively towards the external and internal changes. Thus, a child that grows up in an unhealthy environment (neglectful, depressive parents) that also is lacking resilience most probably will develop a morbid relationship with himself/herself and others.

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