What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mood disorder known for extreme mood swings that produce oscillating periods of extreme highs and extreme lows, with two distinct phases:


This phase of bipolar disorder is characterized by depressive episodes, including decreased mood, energy and interest in activities or hobbies.


The manic phase of bipolar disorder include feelings of euphoria, limitless energy, reckless or dangerous behavior, irrational thinking and in some cases, delusions.

The symptoms can cause significant emotional, psychological and physical harm to individuals with the disorder and greatly impact their quality of life. Around 2.6 percent of adults in the United States are affected by bipolar disorder, but it is frequently misdiagnosed as depression or borderline personality disorder. This is because many clinicians and other psychiatric professionals often only witness the depressive symptoms without seeing the manic episodes. The symptoms and manifestations of bipolar disorder vary widely depending on which stage a person is experiencing, and each individual brings their own stamp or personality to the picture. There are also two distinct types of bipolar disorder, type I and II. Those with bipolar disorder type I experience mania, a period of excitability and elevated mood that can be extremely disruptive. Individuals with bipolar disorder type II experience hypomania, a form of mania that isn’t as severe as a full-blown manic episode, but it can be frightening and debilitating nonetheless. Symptoms of bipolar disorder may include:


  • 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

While those experiencing a manic episode may feel good at the time, they often have irrational thoughts that can lead to them to engage in risky behaviors such as overspending or unprotected sex. If left untreated, those with mild symptoms or less extreme mood swings may begin to experience more severe manic episodes and worsening periods of depression.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

What causes bipolar disorder is not well-known by doctors and other health care professionals. A few factors appear to play a role, however, including:

Brain structure

Some research shows that individuals with bipolar disorder have distinct differences in their brain that may contribute to the condition.


While looking for causes of bipolar disorder, researchers found that those who have it were more likely to experience trauma, extreme stress or abuse during their childhoods.


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.

Rather than having one definitive cause, a variety of factors likely contribute to the disorder. If you or someone you care about is struggling with symptoms of bipolar disorder, there are treatment options available that can help. Medications can help with mood balancing, therapy and mindfulness can help residents identify the onset of manic or depressive episodes and help them develop an “emergency plan” for when these symptoms occur, and addiction treatment can help those battling a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use

Bipolar disorder is frequently misdiagnosed, so some residents struggle with the condition for years before receiving proper treatment. In the meantime, some people self-medicate with illicit substances or alcohol in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms and balance their moods. Over time, this type of self-medicating can actually worsen the situation and make manic or depressive episodes more severe and longer-lasting. Substance use may also further delay treatment and negatively impact an individual’s motivation for seeking help.

According to the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), between 30 and 50 percent of those with bipolar disorder will develop a substance use disorder as well at some point during their lives. Although treating individuals with co-occurring disorders can be challenging, recovery is possible. For dual diagnosis residents, there is hope, especially with early intervention. In Texas, the Transformational Services facility Alta Loma helps residents with a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance use by integrating treatment plans and providing comprehensive care that treats an individual as a whole, not as a collection of unrelated symptoms. Addressing both disorders simultaneously is essential to provide residents with a positive outcome. If one’s mental health needs are ignored while they seek help for drug or alcohol use, their psychiatric symptoms are likely to resurface once they’ve completed treatment. This increases the risk that a resident will relapse and fall back into destructive patterns of self-medication.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders at Alta Loma

Healing on Your Terms

Alta Loma serves as an alternative to traditional extended care facilities, offering a continuum of services to help residents as they further stabilize their mental health and work on achieving long-term sobriety. Our treatment plans comprise integrated substance use and mental health modalities presented to residents in a consistent way. This ensures that the messages, therapies and services they receive have cohesiveness throughout the recovery process. The services we offer to help residents struggling with bipolar and substance use disorders include:

  • Residential care up to 24 months
  • Medication management
  • Life skills education
  • 12-step support
  • Comprehensive care coordination
  • Individual treatment for substance abuse
  • Individual treatment for psychiatric needs
  • Nutrition plans
  • Strategies for healthy living
  • Extended care
  • Sober living

Our goal is to provide men with co-occurring disorders a safe landing place where they can stabilize mentally and emotionally while working on their substance use issues. 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.

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.