Bipolar Anger: How To Handle Your Bipolar Relative's Anger
How to handle your bipolar family member's anger and protect everyone from injury.
Bipolar Anger: A Source of Embarrassment
Many with bipolar disorder don't discuss the anger problems that are associated with the moodswings of mania and depression. Why? Because they're embarrassed that they can't control it. In an article for BP Hope Magazine, HealthyPlace bipolar consumer expert and mental health author, Julie Fast, describes her battle with anger and bipolar:
"There are many people in jail because of their anger and bipolar behavior. Children who threaten their parents, women who punch a co-worker, or men who pick fights with strangers are common among people who have this illness. We don’t discuss it much, because so many people are embarrassed by what they have done. All my life, I’ve lived with the embarrassment of mood swings. Indeed, bipolar affects my moods in so many ways that it’s hard to keep track of what is real and what is caused by faulty wiring in my brain.
In addition to the symptoms of bipolar, there are drugs, including various steroids, that are notorious for causing anger. But no matter what causes the bipolar person to be angry, the question is: How do you deal with a person who's bipolar and angry?
Handling Bipolar Anger
If you are both angry and fear losing control, it is best to separate, protecting everyone from injury. If your relative with bipolar disorder is angry and you are not:
- Remain as calm as you can, talk slowly and clearly
- Stay in control. Either hide your fear, as it may cause the situation to escalate, or tell the person directly his or her anger is frightening you
- Do not approach or touch the person without his or her request or permission to do so
- Allow the person an avenue of escape
- Do not give in to all demands, keep limits and consequences clear
- Try to determine whether the anger is completely irrational and thus a symptom of bipolar disorder, or if there is a real cause that you can validate
- Do not argue irrational ideas
- Acknowledge the person's feelings and express your willingness to try to understand what the person is experiencing
- Help your relative figure out what to do next
- Protect yourself and others from injury; some bipolar anger outbursts cannot be prevented or stopped
Did You Know That ...
... there is relief for people who are caregivers?
People who care for patients, such as those with Bipolar disease, often experience emotional distress, frustration, anger, fatigue, guilt and depression. One solution is respite care. Respite care is when a temporary caregiver relieves the person who regularly cares for a patient. This can be for part of a day, overnight care, or care lasting several days. People providing respite services can work for an agency, be self-employed, or are volunteers.
Bipolar and Angry "All the Time"
If angry outbursts are a recurring problem, wait until everyone is calm and then brainstorm acceptable ways in which the person with bipolar disorder can handle angry feelings and remain in control. These might include:
- Being clear and direct at the time of minor annoyances, so the anger doesn't get bottled up and explode
- Venting some energy via exercise, hitting something safe (a pillow), or yelling in a secluded place
- Leaving the situation or taking some time out to write in a journal or count to oneself
- Taking an additional dose of medication, if prescribed
Last Updated: 28 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD