Updated: Thursday, 28 Feb 2013, 6:21 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 28 Feb 2013, 6:02 PM EST
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- The family of a North Stonington grandmother accused of killing two of her grand-children in a murder-suicide say she suffered from mental illness including Bipolar Disorder.
It's a condition that affects over 20 million American adults.
Bipolar disorder can develop in the late teens or early adult years.
Experts tell News 8 people can experience rapid mood swings that can get in the way of functioning successfully at work, at school and challenging for families.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder can fluctuate from being overly joyful to extreme hopelessness.
"There is some evidence that it is somewhat genetically based, it does tend to run in families," said Dr. Ellen Nasper, Clifford Beers Clinic.
Dr. Ellen Nasper is a psychologist at Clifford Beers Clinic. Early intervention and treatment are key but it's a tough time for families.
"This is very wrenching for family members. It is very difficult time when a person is developing really severe symptoms and isn't necessarily willing to help with the control," said Dr. Nasper.
Keeping a loved on the prescribed medication can also be daunting.
"One of the problems with mania is that initially it feels really good. You can do more. You have lots of energy," said Dr. Nasper. "That's a state that many people like to be in and so they sometimes do go off their medication because they move into that state. The problem is that beyond that people end up doing things that are dangerous."
But experts agree that most people with Bipolar can be treated and live full lives.
"The majority of people who are mentally ill are very very vulnerable and really do not pose any kind of threat to anyone," said Mary Guerrera.
Guerrera heads up Fellowship Place in New Haven, where year round people with mental disorders such as bipolor disorder are getting the support they need.
"What we want to help people do is to get their life back on track and be as productive and as independent and as contributing members of the community," said Guerrera.
Programs like expressive art are helping them reclaim their lives. Many here are going back to school and working in the community.
For more information on Fellowship Place, visit http://fellowshipplace.org/