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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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Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

67 thoughts on “The Relationship Between Bipolar and Anger / Aggression”

  1. I read these posts and feel much validation. I struggle with extreme anger saying things that I am amazed would say such vile things. There have been times that when I am In such a state, I do not remember what I said. Is this considered a psychotic episode?

  2. Recently I notice something’s about bipolar. I am one of them. U guys know we are having mood swing but u all dunno how our actual feeling which is we facing hurt of trigger because we are sentivite toward around us. Which mean we think fast and act fast because we having the feeling a lot greater then the normal ppl. A hug a kiss a support is so important for us and not blaming or complaining but just understand us. You think we wanna be depress or violent ? Why we will act and react out so violent or harmful that is because our feeling is so great just like u being hurt category level 1 and we are at level 10 because of bipolar the emotion and feeling is a lot greater then u all. We also trying our best to push all the emotion away but normally we failed especially when we hurt or being hurt. You think if one hurt sentence u call cruel but for us is x10 so if u feeling same as us will u still think it’s strange for what we face ? Or crazy ? But we still manage to continue our journey. Pls dun just said what u feel is so bad mean time u dun understand the illness and u dun willing to put yourself into our position.

  3. Good afternoon, my husband is bipolar and have times we are in honeymoon and have times i just want to leave and have peace. I do know the alcohol is a big trigger to my husband. So i am trying for more than 5 years to bring him some conscience that he cant drink. Also i have make videos when he was drunk to show him how bad he acts. So cafeine is very bad too. Some times i think about have kids, but my stress with my husband it is so constantly that i do think will be just a nightmare for me.

  4. 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 .

    1. Dear Desperate Mom,
      I am so sorry to hear of the pain and suffering you, your husband, and your son are going through. I am a 55yr old man who has dealt with bipolar and generalized anxiety disorder since 1981. It is important to note that I was evaluated twice within 1 year by a team of mental health professionals: namely a psychiatrist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, and a mental health social worker. I do not know if your son has had the luxury of being evaluated as I was. Proper evaluation and accurate diagnosis made all the difference for me. It allowed development of a treatment plan that, over time, allowed me to return to school and work. It has helped me to manage the illness.. to “stay on top of it” as opposed to the other way around.
      I can only give you my opinions here as I am not an M.D. or a licensed/experienced mental health worker. As for your son:— the fact that he has been able to hold a job for such a long period of time is a good sign. It sounds as though the stress he experienced on the job was intense and only getting worse. Stress can certainly be one trigger (not the only one though) for the type of explosive anger he is exhibiting.
      There are two basic steps that must be completed:
      1. Is their a physical problem that could be causing his problems. He needs a thorough physical work up…. NOT just a physical exam. For example: there is a type of epilepsy called “temporal lobe epilepsy” that, if present, often mimics the symptoms of bipolar.
      2. If physical problems are definitively ruled out then he will need a psychiatric evaluation by, at the very least, a psychiatrist (preferabley) or pyschologist. Do not settle for anyone who as lesser qualifications. Accurate dx depends on it.
      I don’t know what medical facilities you have available to you (not to mention insurance). The one thing I can say with relative assuredness is that if he can get evaluated by a decent psychiatrist then medicine may allow him to control his symptoms enough such that he could start some type of therapy. I believe, however, a path with some similarity to the one above will get things moving in the right direction. I promise to pray about this. I believe, with all my heart, that you will be brought to the right place & that you will find the right people to help your son. Nothing is hopeless.

  5. 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?

    1. My husband is bipolar and won’t take his meds daily. He is now in a manic state and raging at me. We have only been married for 3 years. Can’t tolerate his behavior any longer.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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???

  9. 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.

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