Life has its ups and downs. Whether we’re moving forward or standing still, there are countless twists, turns and obstacles along the way. This is a normal part of being human, so we press on through the highs and lows. But for those with bipolar disorder, these variations are more extreme, with fluctuations in mood, thinking and behavior that are disruptive to normal functioning. Emotions can become so volatile that it becomes difficult to maintain a sense of stability and balance in day-to-day life.

At Alta Loma, our goal is to help residents reclaim a sound mind and learn how to cope with their mental health symptoms. We provide comprehensive care for men of all ages dealing with a range of issues, including bipolar disorder, co-occurring addictions and their impact on daily life. Backed by a team of highly qualified experts, our programs address the unique needs of each individual and help establish a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental health condition known for producing sudden mood swings that oscillate between extreme highs and lows. It affects nearly 6 million people worldwide and has a reputation for being a difficult and dangerous diagnosis, with drastic changes in mood and thinking that can lead to significant impairment and increase the risk of hospitalization, substance abuse or suicide.

There are two distinct phases of bipolar disorder, which include a manic and depressive stage. During a manic episode, individuals experience symptoms of euphoria, increased energy, irrational thinking and, in some cases, delusions. This is often followed by a depressive episode, characterized by a decreased mood, low energy levels and little to no interest in hobbies or activities.

There are also different types of bipolar disorder (primarily type 1 and 2), and the extent to which an individual experiences these symptoms depends on their diagnosis. Those with bipolar disorder type 1 are prone to full-blown mania, which can last for days or months, while individuals with bipolar disorder type 2 experience a less intense hypomania. While hypomania isn’t as severe as a manic episode, both can be frightening, debilitating and disruptive to normal functioning.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary depending on which type an individual is diagnosed with, but there are some shared similarities. Some of the more common and recognizable symptoms of bipolar disorder type 1 and 2 include:

Mania / Hypomania

  • Feelings of elation or euphoria
  • Excessive energy
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts and trouble concentrating
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Reckless behavior
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Feeling talkative
  • Being more active than usual


  • Feeling sad, empty and hopeless
  • Little to no energy
  • Disruption of sleeping patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts

These symptoms can cause significant emotional, psychological and physical harm, especially if left untreated. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence as bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed. Many clinicians and mental health professionals only see the depressive side of the disorder when someone first comes in for treatment, and it takes time for a pattern of alternating highs and lows to emerge. As with all mental health disorders, the symptoms and manifestations of bipolar can vary widely among individuals, and each person brings their own stamp or personality to the picture.

Furthermore, not everyone is bothered by the effects of mania or hypomania, so they may not report symptoms like increased energy, sudden elation or racing thoughts. While a manic episode may feel good at first, it can lead to risky or impulsive behaviors. And over time, those with mild symptoms may begin to experience more severe episodes and cycle rapidly between mania and depression, making it crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible.


What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

While no one knows the exact cause of bipolar disorder, some common risk factors have been identified, including a history of substance abuse, trauma and mental illness within the family. There also seems to be some overlap between bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder. In most cases, a combination of these and other factors likely play a role in its development.

  • Brain structure and chemistry — Some research shows that individuals with bipolar disorder have distinct differences in their brains that may contribute to the condition. It was also recently discovered that gene expression patterns in the brains of those with bipolar disorder and autism are surprisingly similar.
  • Environment — While looking for causes of bipolar disorder, researchers found that those who have it were more likely to have experienced trauma, extreme stress or abuse during their childhoods.
  • Genetics — Bipolar disorder is much more common in people who have close family relatives (parents or siblings, for example) with the condition.
  • Substance use — Prolonged substance use can change how the brain functions by affecting important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Drug use can’t cause bipolar disorder, but it can trigger its onset and contribute to worsening symptoms.

While it’s not always clear why some people develop bipolar disorder and others don’t, there are treatment options available that can help regardless of the cause. A combination of therapy and medication can get individuals back on track and help them identify the onset of manic or depressive symptoms, stabilize their moods and develop an “emergency plan” for when episodes do occur.

Bipolar Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Research shows that those with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder than the general population. In fact, studies have found that 27 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder also exhibit signs of bipolar disorder. This may be linked to overlapping gene expressions within the brain, giving rise to shared symptoms and a high rate of comorbidity. The similarities can make finding a proper diagnosis difficult, but identifying a co-occurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorder and bipolar disorder can improve treatment strategies and ensure better outcomes by addressing both conditions simultaneously.

At Alta Loma, we provide comprehensive care that can help men struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorder and bipolar disorder. We specialize in dual diagnosis recovery and recognize the unique challenges these individuals face, so our treatment plans are tailored to meet their exact needs. Delivered in a supportive setting with the guidance of a highly collaborative group of doctors and clinicians, our program is uniquely qualified to help those with co-occurring disorders achieve a lasting sense of mental wellness.

dual diagnosis

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use

Bipolar disorder is frequently misdiagnosed, so individuals can struggle with the condition for years before receiving proper treatment. In the meantime, some may begin to self-medicate with illicit drugs or alcohol to alleviate their symptoms and balance their moods. Over time, this type of self-medicating can lead to a co-occurring addiction and amplify manic or depressive episodes. Substance use may also further delay treatment by masking the signs of bipolar disorder and negatively impact an individual’s motivation to seek help.

According to the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 30 to 50 percent of those with bipolar disorder will develop a co-occurring substance use disorder at some point during their lives. Whether addiction results from self-medication or other factors, treating individuals with a dual diagnosis can be challenging, but lifelong recovery is possible with integrated care.

At Alta Loma, we know that a comprehensive approach is essential when it comes to co-occurring mental illness and addiction, so we look at the whole picture when assessing residents’ needs. Otherwise, untreated symptoms are likely to resurface in the future and derail the recovery process, allowing harmful patterns and behaviors to take hold once again. Our goal is to break that cycle with sustainable recovery solutions that leave no stone unturned.

Treating Bipolar Disorder at Alta Loma

Alta Loma goes above and beyond to help men with chronic mental health conditions and co-occurring disorders overcome their challenges. Our programs integrate all aspects of emotional and mental wellness into a resident’s treatment plan, helping them further stabilize their moods and work on achieving long-term recovery. This approach ensures each individual’s needs are met and that the messages, therapies and services we deliver are cohesive throughout the treatment process. Some of the techniques we use include:

Our goal is to provide men with mental health disorders a safe landing place to begin healing and learn how to manage their symptoms. The long-term continuum of care available at Alta Loma will help residents move toward healthy and sustainable independent living while helping to mitigate the stress and anxiety that often arises during early recovery and transitional periods.

Contact Alta Loma

Healing on Your Terms

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a dual diagnosis and other treatment centers don’t address your mental health needs, a collaborative group of clinicians at Alta Loma is ready to create an individualized recovery program designed explicitly for co-occurring disorders. Contact or call one of our friendly representatives today at 866-457-3843 to find out how Alta Loma can help.