Attitudes about bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder) and genetic testing were investigated. Three groups of subjects were surveyed including members of a manic depressive support group, medical students, and psychiatry residents. The questionnaire was intended to elicit impressions and attitudes about bipolar disorder (BP) from mental health consumers and health care providers with varying levels of personal and professional familiarity with the disorder. Attitudes towards prenatal testing and pregnancy termination were also assessed. The intention hypothetically to terminate a pregnancy was influenced by the likelihood of developing BP a well as the projected course and severity of illness. Nearly half of the total sample would terminate pregnancy if the fetus were definitely to develop an unspecified form of bipolar disorder. Presumed severity of illness was also found to be a modifying factor in the decision, with a low percentage of subjects electing to terminate for a mild course of bipolar disorder and a majority opting for termination in the case of an extremely severe presentation. Support group members were the least likely to terminate a hypothetical pregnancy in the case of a positive prenatal test and were the most likely to desire childhood testing in the absence of preventive or treatment options. The possible implications of these findings, as well as avenues of future research, are discussed.
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