The Relationship Between Bipolar and Anger / Aggression

I am not an angry or an aggressive person. This is not to suggest I don’t have my moments, as we all do, but overall, I have far fewer issues with anger than most people I know. There are lots of reasons for this, I’m sure many have to do with my psychology the way I view anger (I view it as pointless and particularly undesirable).

Nevertheless, it seems that people with bipolar disorder do, on the whole, have anger issues. I’m a bit surprised to hear this as anger is not a diagnostic feature of bipolar disorder, but people write in again and again and talk about either having bipolar and being very angry or being with someone who has bipolar and this partner being very angry.

But are these just anecdotal accounts or do people with bipolar disorder have aggressive and angry tendencies?

Diagnosing Bipolar

When diagnosing bipolar disorder anger and aggression are actually not listed as symptoms. The closest symptom listed is irritation and that is present in manic, hypomanic and mixed moods. Irritability is known to manifest as aggressiveness and impatience with, or intolerance of, others.

But as stated, this is a mood-dependant characteristic. I, certainly, have felt this mood state. It’s very easy to be irritated with the world when you’re moving faster than everyone else, are more “brilliant” than everyone else and are simply “better” than everyone else. “Genius” gets irritated by the “little people” around it.

Aggression and Anger in Bipolar Disorder

But according to this new study,

Subjects with BP [bipolar disorder] display greater rates of anger and aggressive behaviors, especially during acute and psychotic episodes.

This study found that people with bipolar are aggressive when compared to people with other disorders and when compared to healthy controls and this relationship existed even when the person with bipolar disorder wasn’t in a mood episode (although those in a mood episode showed higher levels).

So apparently my feelings of less anger than the average person are the anecdote and those with bipolar experiencing greater anger and aggression are the average.

Dealing with Anger and Aggression in Bipolar Disorder

As the study states, people in acute mood episodes do show greater anger and aggression so, obviously, the first step is to get the bipolar disorder under control. Certainly when you’re feeling well, you have less to be angry about.

But if anger is still a problem with you, I highly recommend you talk openly about it and get some therapy, individual and couples therapy, where appropriate. This is because anger is a highly toxic emotion that can destroy the relationships in your life and diminish any interaction you may have with another person. Anger scares people and traumatizes them and in the end, most people, quite rightly, will not stand for unreasonable amounts of it.

The good news is that therapists have many techniques for dealing with anger and you just need to find the ones that work for you. Not only can therapists teach you these techniques, but they can also help you get in touch with things that may be driving your anger outside of the bipolar disorder. We all, after all, have our issues.

Regardless though, it’s important to remember that having bipolar doesn’t give you an excuse to take your anger out on those around you. Having bipolar gives you the responsibility of finding a way of dealing with the symptom, should it arise.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

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66 Responses to The Relationship Between Bipolar and Anger / Aggression

  1. jackie says:

    My husband can’t talk to me without getting HIGHLY upset expecially if it’s admitted he’s in the wrong or feels I should drop it cause he don’t wanna talk. He will say his piece then tell me to shut up that I need to leave him alone an he don’t wanna here my side. If I choose to continue he get so angry he starts throwing stuff pulling his Haor hitting his head an just plain tripping out. He snaps at the smallest of things. He has never been diagnosed with anything but his sudden mood changes makes me feel he may have bipolar but Idk enough about it an he won’t see anyone. Says he’s not the one that needs help. Can someone help me here. I’m so done an it’s about to ruin an 8 year relationship. Thanks

  2. michelle says:

    Um sorry that u have to go through that, but it is hard when u love someone that behaves that way. U tend to feel like if u don’t help then you have turned your back on them when they need you the most. When a bipolar person does not want to hear you to me makes it difficult to continue on. It make sure feel like u have to walk around on egg shells to not upset them. When manic, a bipolar person has the inability to rationably think and may become violent. I know, I lived with it for 4 years. It’s hard but that person has to realize that they need help. I will pray that u find balance.

  3. Hannah says:

    My sister sounds very much like your husband. She claims she was diagnosed bipolar almost 25 years ago, and we have never seen any improvement in her behaviors despite years of psychotherapy and multiple medications. She is EXTREMELY aggressive, argumentative, paranoid, accepts no responsibility for anything, she is very vain, brags about her intelligence, and is one of the laziest people I’ve ever encountered. She cannot stay in any relationship more than a month or two due to the demands she makes, insisting that the world revolves around her at all times.

    Because she insists that there is ‘nothing that can be done for her’ and she refuses to allow family to talk to her doctors (or even tell us who they ARE), we have had to take a step back and just let her be. Of course this has resulted in a high level of rage on her part (except when she wants one of us to do something for her), and she has told family friends that we are all ‘out to get her’ and that we ‘want her money’ etc when in fact she is in a vast amount of debt. We have talked to a social worker and have been advised that there is NOTHING WE CAN DO about her despite her increasingly bizarre behavior unless she harms herself or someone else.

    So all that said, the best thing I can tell you is to let your husband be. And by that I mean leave him, go somewhere that you can be alone, self sufficient, without his interference and attitude. Do it now, 8 years isn’t that long, but 60 years is forever. If he won’t immediately get help you are under no obligation to try and help him yourself. You CAN’T help him yourself. I’m not being harsh, I’m being realistic. I was right where you are just a few months ago. Letting go of my sister was hard, but I can’t help someone who does not want to be helped, and neither can you.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Your sister has a personality disorder. She can change, but she will need serious motivation to do so. I had some of the same problems. My husband and daughter moved out of the house and into their own apartment. I was devastated. I worked with a therapist and a psychiatrist for two years to learn how to control my aggressive and selfish tendencies. I truly wanted to change because I wanted my husband and daughter to come home. After 19 months, they finally moved back in with me. Because I so desperately want my family to stay together, I have learned ways to control my aggressive and selfish tendencies. The sad part is that if they had not moved out, I would not have been motivated to change my ways.

  5. Kelly says:

    I was never, ever so glad as to read this article. I’m diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1, and for decades I have been telling people that my irritation/anger/outbursts are a huge and daily part of my illness I struggle with. I have never understood why this trait is not being addressed more, because I have talked with other people diagnosed who have confirmed the same trait, or who live with someone bipolar who exhibits this behavior. I can say with the upmost sincerity that I hate this part of my illness, not only because it is so incredibly painful to experience, but I must also face the ugly reality that my words repeatedly really hurt those I love, and that is absolutely devastating. I always take responsibility for my behavior, and make amends every time it is called for, but the guilt never really abates. Sometimes I feel like a broken record, due to how many times I say sorry. But I am committed to doing my best with what I have, so whenever I say it, I mean it. Sometimes, that’s all I have to hold on to.

  6. Loving wife says:

    I met my husband 8 years ago. He is bipolar. Over the years his aggression and anger has gottom really bad. He has hit me shoved me, pushed me down. I have been with him to his doctors and they know of his abuse. He gets really aggressive and mouthy and when it is bad it is realllllly bad. I have left him and came back when he is better, but I am so tired of coping with his bipolar. I will be 56 this year and I do not want to live like this another 8 years. He is on depakote, lexapro and mirtazapine. Any advice?

  7. bill says:

    I’ve recently was rediagnosed with bipolar my anger was&is an issue.but i personally feel if i have to held accountable for my episodes then why can’t those who provoke my episodes also be held accountable? My anger is mostly due to justififable circumstances involving disrespectful people.I’ve always been a vocal person when it comes to my feelings&hate it i feel like no one is listening.

  8. Devoted to bipolar partner says:

    People may provoke you yes but how you respond is a weakness or strength in you. Are you impatient or over sensitive on an unsuspecting victim of Your anger?
    I don’t get angry outbursts so I don’t know I just disregard what people do or say so it doesn’t create a rise within me. You have the power to do the same.

  9. RoxxanneRedd says:

    I’m seeing a lot of similarity between women’s comments and my own 4 yr relationship. He’s never been diagnosed but you can’t even mention the word ‘Bipolar’ around him without him getting upset. I know I have my own problems with ADD, Mood Swings, and Chronic Depression. I also grew up in a traumatic household with a Schizophrenia abusive father. My man is never violent towards me, but he gets frustrated and angry easily and cusses me out, then later he acts like everything is completely normal. He has even stated he does not enjoy being an angry asshole but he just cannot help it sometimes. We are not in the best of living situations but we are striving towards our goals. When we are both having a good day we are perfect together and everything just ‘clicks’. But it is not easy to deal with the constant roller coaster of ups and downs. We are even starting a business together involving tons of animals. Separating is NOT an option and I cannot bring myself to leave the love of my life. I try to be a calm person and just ‘kill him with kindness’ so to speak but it is not easy with my own Mood Swings crashing over me. We both are unable to take the normal medications for this kind of stuff due to medical reasons. We both use prescriptional medicinal marijuana as a remedy and it actually has worked in calming us and help with other side effects like the depression, insomnia, anger, etc. I was just hoping some other people had some tips on how to deal with the behavior and not give up. It disheartens me seeing others who have had to leave their loved ones. I can’t do that. It’s just not an option for either of us.

  10. Devoted to bipolar partner says:

    Try cognitive behavioural therapy. Winning over negative thoughts with new ones.

  11. kim says:

    for 12 years i have been on the medication roller coaster – 4 of which included shock treatments and years of therapy in hopes of a better life. what i have found is that nothing changes for me, nothing gets better, I take the meds, i do the therapy, i take the dbt classes, i eat right i exercise i do the best i can and I continue to hurt the ones i love and who love me. How can i not feel like a hopeless burden. i do not suffer alone.

  12. abbey says:

    I was Bipolar type 1 for many year but recently diagnosed with type 2. I have some anger issues I will admit, my husband has been super patient with me! I don’t say “mean or hurtful things to him (or I do my best not to) I do things toward myself which might not be nice for him to have to see) I have NEVER EVER hurt him physically. My pain is inward. I don’t want people seeing this post and assuming that those of us with bipolar are danagerous to be around (that’s what I see this post and think of) is maybe sending out the wrong vibes towards mental illness) I know your trying to educate people about anger but it might being in ways not sending out a good vibe to some readers). You’re right people need to seek help (especially if their doing damage to their selves or their spouses) anything emotional or physical is just wrong (I will say this in my own defense when I am in hypo I really don’t know what I am doing I am just so “out” of it and angry…I go in that mode (I guess unless you have been there it’s hard to know or explain) My husband has a way with me, he comes to me and holds me, (or he will walk me to the bath and put in some lavender) and it calms me right down) It’s important to have a supportive spouse or family and friends! If not what do you have???

  13. Stephanie says:

    My wife has recently been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 and she’s been going back and forth trying to get on the right meds. Her doctor put her on geodon which help but turned her into a zombie. She could sleep for days if she wanted to. It was actually working though!! She was a pleasure to be around and I could finally stop walking on egg shells. She took herself off of it a week ago and now she’s back to being this ticking time bomb. If I say one thing wrong, no matter how big or little, she’ll turn into a monster. I’ve been dealing with this for 3 and a half years now and I don’t know how much more I can take. She has no communication skills and blames me for everything. She won’t go to counseling. She just keeps telling me that if I don’t like it then I can leave. I hate giving up on her but our daughter is starting to be affected by it and I’m starting to think that leaving is my only option. Does anyone have any advice on how to handle anger and aggression?

  14. Ellen Brow says:

    Stephanie, Sometimes medications can exacerbate symptoms rather than relieve them. If her current med school are not working, and she has been compliant in taking them, perhaps a different medication is in order. SSRI’s make my family member worse off, amplifying their current mood (usually anger and hostility). When put on Lamictal, it was like night and day. No more horrid mood swings, no flat affect, no excessive fatigue…. After a year, they added Seroquil for help with some mood swings that appeared after the baby was born, but all around amazing turn of events. She will need to monitor her moods and contact her doctor when she feels it starting to slip, and they adjust her dose accordingly. Once she became accountable for her disease, rather than ashamed of it, she had much better results.

    If you are in the states, check out NAMI… it is wonderful resource, with free family course that really open your eyes to all we have been doing wrong in handling our loved ones disease with them. Hang in here… I am on 28 years with bipolar spouse (unmedicated) and bipolar daughter (now medication compliant). Husband makes me crany at times when I can’t detach from the event well, but I know he never asked for this disease. I’m still gently working to get him to be accountable for it, as he insisted his daughter be.

    One response that I have changed in conversation with family member is to say, “I know this is not the person I love talking to me right now, and perhaps it is the disease lashing out right now. But, I would like to talk about this with you later on when we can have a real conversation. We can work together to discover the trigger the caused this and we will figure out a solution, together. Is that ok?” My stopping, acknowledging that they really don’t want to be like that, and offering a solution to work out later let’s them know I am listening, I’m present, and will not engage with their disease… but, will talk to them to help them through this tough situation at a set time. Daughter loves it. Husband, tolerates it, but holds resentment internally.

    It’s all we can do. They must want to help them self first.

  15. M D says:

    My wife’s behavior is exactly as everyone has written here, the problem is we been only married for one month. I am not sure if she will get better or worse, it looks like it is going to effect me a lot because if for example I wanted to study at night I wouldn’t be able to because she will get mad at me for studying. She puts me in this “anger prison” for example, let says I am looking at my phone while she is next to me at night, she will get really angry at me and start screaming at me. If I say I’m sorry I am done, she will turn her back and start pushing me away. If I talk she will tell me to stop talking. If I go to sleep, she will wake me up squeezing my jaw saying “you can’t go to sleep because I am mad.” I dont think I continue like this. She has a two or three good days, she will get in this weird swing mood for a day, and then look for something to be mad about then flip out on me. Those who have been married for 8 years, how did you continue for so long?

  16. Desperate mother says:

    Today I came to search for posts about (Anxiety,Bipolar, anger,and i endup here, reading all this comments,so here go my situation,maybe I can get some tips how to cope with this .
    my son 43 have been working till now , he start having problems at work with is boss,
    and was coming home and telling us ,(me and my husband )about it ,and got worse over the last 7months. he was transfer to another department ,but without any result,he went to doctor and he was diagnostic with chronic anxiety ,is home with temporary disability ,but I think its more than that because is always in bad mood,very verbal aggressive with me
    every time I tell hem ( = you have to go to therapy , to get better,is living in my house and not paying for food or anything,and i wanna that way but when he is bad he tells me that i m annoying hem ,and he abuse with lots of verbal names with lots of screaming, and my husband is sick have heart problems, he cries when my son screams at me ( we do so mush for hem and never a thank you. I wish was a way we could help hem. at this point looks like he hath us . I wonder if is anybody out there going thru some like this . Good bless and help all the ones are suffering .

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