Childhood Experiences and Bipolar Health

Bipolar disorder patients had more medical problems when they had a troubled childhood

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Patients with bipolar disorder may develop other health issues. Events from childhood may help show who is at risk for these additional health problems.

In a recent study, people with bipolar disorder who experienced higher levels of childhood hardship also had more general health problems. The higher their score for hardship in childhood, the greater the number of health problems they reported. Health problems like migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and arthritis were linked to childhood hardship in these patients.

The authors concluded that people with bipolar disorder who had a troubled childhood may be at higher risk for other health problems.

"Ask a doctor about protecting your physical and mental health."

The study, led by Robert M. Post, MD, of the Bipolar Collaborative Network in Maryland, enrolled 900 patients with bipolar disorder who were about 40 years old on average.

Each patient completed a questionnaire about physical, sexual or verbal abuse during childhood. The patient’s also answered questions about their parents' mental health problems and drug use.

The researchers put all this together to give each participant a score of childhood adversity. The score was higher for people who had more types of abuse or who were abused more often. The score also increased if a person had a parent with a mental health or drug abuse problem.

Added together, the score showed the level of the person’s childhood adversity. The highest possible score was 17, and a higher number meant more hardship in childhood.

The researchers found that the childhood adversity score was related to the number of other health conditions a person had. The higher the score on adversity, the more medical problems a person had.

The most common medical problems in these patients were allergies, headache and head injury.

People who had higher adversity scores were more likely to report having allergies, arthritis, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, menstrual problems, fibromyalgia, blood pressure problems, irritable bowel syndrome and migraine headaches.

Levels of childhood adversity were not linked to kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes or thyroid problems in these patients.

The authors concluded that childhood adversity was linked with having more health problems for patients with bipolar disorder.

The authors said, “Recognition of these relationships and early treatment intervention may help avert a more severe course of not only bipolar disorder but also of its prominent medical comorbidities and their combined adverse effects on patients’ health, well-being, and longevity.”

This study was published January 18 in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The study was funded by the Stanley Medical Research Institute. The authors reported financial links to multiple pharmaceutical companies.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 14, 2013
Last Updated:
February 17, 2013