Understanding Bipolar Disorder

It is natural, normal, and healthy to have changes in mood—sometimes gradually, sometimes all of a sudden. However, when those mood fluctuations are erratic, frequent or irrational, this may point to a mental health disorder, specifically bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic disorder that is characterized by extreme variations in mood. Bipolar can be diagnosed in children, teens, and adults, and when untreated the symptoms can worsen over time. Through the right clinical care, however, bipolar disorder’s symptoms can be managed, and recovery can be long-lasting.

The first step toward seeking the right treatment is developing a full understanding of bipolar disorder—its symptoms, its causes and the connection between bipolar disorder and other conditions, such as substance use.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Men

Those who have bipolar disorder may notice a few different signs and symptoms. A partial list of them includes:


Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Distinct Variations Between Manic and Depressed States, and Sudden Shifts Between the Two

Distinct Variations Between Manic and Depressed States, and Sudden Shifts Between the Two

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Anxious Distress—Feeling Restless or Nervous all the Time

Anxious Distress—Feeling Restless or Nervous all the Time

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Catatonia—Not Reacting to the Environment or to People Around You

Catatonia—Not Reacting to the Environment or to People Around You

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Rapid Cycling—Several Full Transitions Between Depression and Mania Within a Given Year

Rapid Cycling—Several Full Transitions Between Depression and Mania Within a Given Year

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Psychosis, or Detachment from Reality

Psychosis, or Detachment from Reality

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms Features that Mix the Symptoms of Mania and Depression

Features that Mix the Symptoms of Mania and Depression

No two people are exactly the same, so remember that even two people with the same bipolar diagnosis may have totally different experiences and symptoms.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Pinning down the specific cause of bipolar disorder is difficult. Its precise cause-and-effect is not quite known, but there are a few factors that have been isolated as significant. Bipolar disorder may be caused by any of the following or by a combination of them:

  • Biological differences: People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder often have physical changes in their brains.
  • Neurotransmitters: It may also have something to do with brain chemistry; an imbalance in naturally occurring chemicals, called neurotransmitters, could play a significant role.
  • Inherited traits: Research has shown that bipolar disorder is more common in those who have a first-degree relative who also struggled with the condition.

Criteria for Bipolar Disorder

The criteria for diagnosing bipolar disorder are fairly strict. Note that bipolar disorder is not the same as having mood variations, nor having occasional moments of depression and mania. Meeting criteria for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder requires the presence of certain symptoms over a specified time period. Some general comments about the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder include:

  • Mania is in many ways the key symptom, though not the only one. Without mania, however, the condition would be considered a Depressive Disorder.
  • There are subsets of bipolar disorder that are all dependent on the frequency and duration of the manic and depressive episodes.
  • The different criteria that determine the specific diagnosis include Depressive Episode, Manic Episode, Mixed Episode, and Hypomanic Episode.

The Connection Between Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Though bipolar disorder and substance use disorders do not always go hand in hand, they frequently do. Certainly, the individual who struggles with bipolar disorder has a heightened risk for developing a substance use disorder. There are several possible reasons for this, and the cause-and-effect relationship is not always easy to discern.

Sometimes drugs and alcohol may be sought to help alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder—a kind of self-medication that spirals into addiction. In other cases, however, both the bipolar disorder and the substance use disorder may be rooted in the same underlying cause, or exacerbated by the same episode of trauma, abnormality of the brain, or something further. Dual diagnosis treatment is necessary for determining the true root cause, and for ensuring that the symptoms of addiction do not mask the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

What are the Treatments for Bipolar Disorder?

While bipolar disorder can be a chronic, lifetime condition, it can also be managed; recovery is possible, but it will require clinical intervention. The first step is to seek an accurate diagnosis—one that pinpoints the specific form of bipolar disorder, and also any co-occurring conditions, such as substance use. Dual diagnosis care is the best option here.

From there, a specific recovery action plan can be formed, with the help of a counselor or therapist. Bipolar disorder varies from one person to the next, and even two people with the same diagnosis can have very different symptoms. Treatment must also vary from person to person. It may include individual therapy, group counseling, ongoing involvement in a support group, and in some cases medication.

When medication is used, it may involve up to three different categories—including mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and also antidepressants.

What Can People Expect After Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Treatment for bipolar disorder can often be quite effective, and lifelong recovery is more than possible. The important thing to understand is that recovery is an ongoing process, not something that happens overnight. As such, ongoing counseling or involvement in a support group is often recommended, and medication may be taken on an ongoing basis to help manage symptoms.

It is also important to maintain a calm environment at home; and, to ensure a support structure of encouraging family members and friends. Good mental health habits—like regular sleep, exercise, and good nutrition—can also be invaluable.

Get Help at our Treatment Center for Bipolar and Co-occurring Disorders Today

Recovery from bipolar disorder and co-occurring conditions—including substance use disorders—begins with a diagnosis. Finding a good dual diagnosis care facility is vital. For men struggling with bipolar disorder, as well as any other mental health conditions, we encourage you to seek care from WestBridge. Our evidence-based approach has yielded significant results throughout our years of dual diagnosis work.

Learn more about the dual diagnosis process, and about how there is hope for bipolar disorder treatment and care at WestBridge. Contact WestBridge to learn more about what we can do for you or for your loved one.

WestBridge excels in the effective treatment of men with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders. Call WestBridge Today 1.877.461.7711.