The role of social relationships in bipolar disorder: a review

Psychiatry Res. 2014 Oct 30;219(2):248-54. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.05.047. Epub 2014 Jun 4.


Social relationships and attachment are core developmental elements of human existence and survival that evolve over the lifetime of an individual. The internal and external factors that influence them include the presence of illness in the individual or in their immediate environment. The developmental aspects of attachment and social relationships have become increasingly of interest and relevance in light of early developmental epigenetic modification of gene expression patterns that may influence subsequent behavioral patterns and outcomes. This review examines extant literature on attachment and social relationships in bipolar cohorts. Despite many methodological challenges, the findings indicate that social relationships and capacity for attachment are significantly compromised in individuals with bipolar disorder compared to other mood disorders and normal controls. Though extant research is limited, research clearly points toward the importance of social relationships on the etiology, course, and consequences of bipolar disorder. We highlight a number of key considerations for future research.

Keywords: Attachment; Mood disorder; Parent–child relationship; Social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / genetics
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Object Attachment*
  • Social Environment*