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My mom was in her late 30s when she first "got sick".  Since then she has gone off her meds more times than I can remember, and when she does she becomes mean and VERY VERY paranoid.  Before her first time showing these symptoms in her late 30s, she had never acted anything like this before.  Can a person be bi-polar for almost 30 years before they show any symptoms, or can they "become" bi-polar that late in life?  I always just assumed that bi-polar people are that way from birth.  A friend of mine thinks that menopause was the culprit in my mom's case, and that's what caused her to have a chemical imbalance.  Any thoughts?  I have a thought:  it's pretty f*cked up. ;)

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Not only is it possible to develop BP later, but it's possible she did have some symptoms before, like mild depressions or times she was more energized than others, and something like hormonal or life changes helped it morph in full-blown BP.  It's so hard to say.  Go ahead and study up on BP, because understanding what's going on with her will help you adjust and deal with having a BP mom.

Bipolar Disorder by Francis Mondimore has a lot of information specifically for families to help them understand and support their BP family member and stop blaming themselves.  And Mondimore describes BP in very clear terms, without being patronizing, giving you good clinical info without the scary hype many websites offer.  It's pricey but you can probably get it from the library. 

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It's very possible that your mom didn't get sick until her thirties, although it's more likely she was showing symptoms earlier, but no one realized them for what they were.  As Air Marshall said, it varies a lot from person to person.  If you hang around here you'll find that lots of people were diagnosed later on, or were misdiagnosed at first.  The two major mood disorders of bipolar and major depression usually show up when someone is in their twenties, but there are instances of kids and teens developing symptoms. 

I don't have bipolar, just straight major depression, aka unipolar, and I wasn't diagnosed until I was almost 40; I'm 46 now.  I had three distinct episodes in my late twenties/early thirties that went untreated - Prozac and mental illness hadn't become a common topic of discussion at that time. 

It's possible menopause may aggravate some of your mom's symptoms, but I doubt that's what set her off.  My pdoc has been paying a little closer attention to my hormones and will adjust my meds if needed as I'm at the same stage of life.

You might want to check out some of the books that Kay Redfield Jamison has written on mood disorders, especially bipolar.  She's a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and has bipolar I herself.  If I recall correctly, she was diagnosed in gradutate school.  She gives a lot of factual information in an understandable format, and also describes her personal experiences of being ill.  She's also a really good writer.   

I hope your mom is getting the medical care she needs and will stay on her medication.  The drugs can be a lifesaver - I would have been dead by now without them.  Alot of things about them suck, like some of the side effects, but the meds are still better than being sick.  Good luck to you.

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One word: Diathesis.

You can have a bipolar predisposition or genetic/biological vulnerability without ever becoming bipolar. Environmental stressors/triggers can cause you to develop this disorder in a process called diathesis, according to psychological theory.

I personally think I may have been a bipolar child. I believe I had my first major wacko episode when I was 21 but I flew under the radar and didn't get the diagnosis until I in my 30's.

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