“There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.” – Catherine Zeta-Jones
Like millions of others, Golden Globe-nominated actress Catherine Zeta-Jones suffers from bipolar disorder. In April 2011, Jones entered herself into a treatment facility to receive the help that she needed, and she is now an advocate for the better understanding of bipolar disorder.
Indeed, mental illness can affect anyone, just as it did with the very popular and successful actress. In fact, nearly 5.7 million Americans over the age of 18, or 1 out of every 25, will suffer from bipolar disorder in any given year.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks… [Symptoms] are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.”
The millions of people who suffer from bipolar disorder are not unstable, strange or crazy, even though that is sometimes the stigma that society places on mental illnesses. It simply means that those affected by bipolar disorder, depression or any other mood disorder have to seek the proper medications or therapy to overcome their struggles, just as one would who is suffering from diabetes or high cholesterol, for example.
Bipolar Disorder in the APQ
The stigma of mental illness often carries over to adoption for many adoptive families. For some, when filling out the Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ), bipolar disorder is often one of the parts of the Medical History section that adoptive families get “stuck” on, as they are unsure whether or not to check it.
The question adoptive families often ask: “Is bipolar disorder hereditary?”
NIMH states that although children of parents who have bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the illness than non-exposed children, “most children with a family history of bipolar disorder will not develop the illness.”
The question then becomes, if bipolar disorder isn’t always hereditary, is there a situational component?
While NIMH does say that there may be a gene passed from parent to children that can influence bipolar disorder, it is still highly unlikely the child will develop bipolar disorder. More common is that the child will develop bipolar disorder if he or she grows up in a household with one or both parents suffering from the mental illness. This begins the nature versus nurture argument.
Now, the purpose of this article isn’t to determine how bipolar disorder develops in a child. The purpose of this article is to help our adoptive families determine whether or not they are accepting or unaccepting of bipolar disorder in their APQ.
Let’s look at why a potential birth mother may disclose that she has bipolar disorder in her Social Medical History form.
Unlike some of the other medical issues like diabetes or hepatitis on the APQ, bipolar disorder is very difficult to diagnose, and no test exist to determine whether or not a person definitively has it. The only way a bipolar diagnosis can be made is by a psychiatrist conducting a complete mental health evaluation, including interviews with friends and family members.
So, pregnant women who contact American Adoptions and disclose that they have bipolar disorder may or may not have a professional diagnosis. Oftentimes, these women may think they have bipolar disorder, when really it is more situational bouts of depression and manic episodes due to things like finances, relationships and, of course, experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.
For these women, who suffer from situational bipolar disorder, their child would obviously not have any hereditary effects of her mental illness. And even if the woman has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a psychiatrist, the child will not be exposed to parents with bipolar disorder and will have a very small chance of having the mental illness himself or herself, as stated by NIMH.
Now, can an adopted child develop bipolar disorder? Of course, it is possible.
While more than 95 percent of children adopted from American Adoptions are completely healthy, is a medical issue such as bipolar disorder, which is easily treatable, going to make the adoptive family love that child any less? Or if the adoptive family had a biological child who had bipolar disorder, diabetes or any other medical issues, would it even matter?
These are the questions adoptive families should ask themselves when completing the APQ.
As with every medical condition on the Medical History section, we suggest adoptive families seek the advice of a medical professional for more information about bi-polar disorder, and to research mental illnesses themselves, beginning with the National Institute of Mental Health’s website, listed below.
Also, American Adoptions’ Adoption Specialists are always happy to answer any questions and to offer their thoughts on these issues, who can be reached at 1-800-ADOPTION.
Researching and discussing these issues as a couple is the best way to come to a true, educated decision regarding the Medical History section of the APQ. Luckily, there is a wealth of information and experts on the topic for adoptive families to use to make a decision they feel comfortable with.
All statistics and information about bi-polar disorder was gathered from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml
If the child does develop bipolar it will be a help to know the birth parents history to receive a proper diagnosis. The only time Bipolar is a big problem is if it isn’t recognized or treated.
From a different angle – we are trying to adopt and my husband has bipolar, which he is getting treatment and is “controlled”. We were honest with the County we are working with and so far, the reaction is only negative.
It is trying when you have one division of the County approving your application to move forward and therefore look like they are not prejudice of mental illness and then the next group only has to deny you for “not being the best fit”.
I’m Adopting from foster care baby is 6 mths and has demonstrated, what I think could be symptoms of bi- polar. Difficulty sleeping for example. At a time when most babies would be sleeping for long periods, she takes little 20-30 min naps then she’s up. I’ve seen her mood switch from happy to mad to sad within seconds. I know you can’t diagnose a 6 mth old, but I’m nervous now. I’m still going to adopt because I love her, I’m just scared about family reaction as well as being able to find the right help for her.
I have been diagnosed with bipolar/ psychosis 5 years ago. I never stopped meds, I’m in a stable good condition. I’m 27, I have always shut down the idea of marriage because mom had bipolar and she was a terrible parent, I don’t blame her she’s uneducated and never accepted she’s mentally ill, therefore she never took meds.
She never knew how to express love and all my childhood memories is her trying to pull a fight with dad, or she leaves to live by herself for 2 years until she comes home to fight with dad again. I don’t hate, nor blame her, bipolar was just stronger than her by a big margin.
I always refused the idea of my marriage no matter how tempting it looks now. First because I have trust issues which I know will build problems with my partner. PLUS most importantly I don’t want a second generation of bipolar kids, it’s genetic so I won’t take the risk.
I was thinking today about adopting? Do you think it’s a good idea? At least I’ll be the only one suffering mentally, I don’t want to have a kid while I know he’s having suicidal thoughts tonight! Won’t have it!
What do you think adopting?
Hello — We recommend that you call our adoption specialists at 1-800-ADOPTION for more information on how your personal situation may affect your eligibility as an adoptive parent.
I’m 35, w bipolar depression. I’m unable to have children though I long to b a mother…. I’m not heavily medicated but I am stable. Not being able to have children has been my biggest trigger for my mental health. I love little ones & its driving me crazy, I feel so incomplete. My bf of 15 yrs+ has a good job w stable income & though not around much due to work, hes a caring man who also loves kids & is surprisingly good w little ones. That being said, idk if we would be able to adopt….