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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56 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?

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