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?
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.
Tracy, N. (2013, February 4). The Relationship Between Bipolar and Anger / Aggression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2013/02/relationship-between-bipolar-anger-aggression
Author: Natasha Tracy
We bipolar sufferers have a mood disorder that can also affect our cognitive abilities. I have BP 1 and when I am manic or mixed, I absolutely can't control my agitation (which is the medical word for irritability/anger) and IS a 'diagnostic feature' of BP and I also teeter on the brink of psychosis (paranoia and delusions).
I can only control this explosiveness when I am not episodic. I don't want to be made to feel guilty about a symptom of mood dysregulation I cannot control when I am having yet another episode (which happens once a year in my case). Maybe you have no problem with anger, and maybe you are lucky. Everyone is different. There are probably other symptoms you have that I don't. Please don't generalise like this, it's moralistic and unhelpful.
I'm sorry you find this judgemental but at no times do I talk about a judgment of those who suffer with this. In fact, I mention it's the "average" based on the study I cite.
I agree, it can be very difficult to control mood-episode symptoms when you're in the midst of a serious mood episode. But that's why I suggested learning new skills and getting counseling. That should happen when you're _not_ in an episode in order to help when you _are_ in an episode.
- Natasha Tracy
Thank you for your comment. I can understand how hard it is to live with another person with bipolar disorder when that person's illness is not well controlled.
You might consider getting one or more books on bipolar disorder to get a fuller picture. I've written a book on bipolar and depression that encompasses a lot. You can find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Marbles-Insights-Depression-Bipolar/dp/1539409147/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
However, there are many other fine books as well. You may wish to give this one a try. It's by Julie Fast (who also has bipolar) and it's technically for the partner of someone with bipolar but I think it would be useful for you as well: https://www.amazon.com/Loving-Someone-Bipolar-Disorder-Understanding/dp/1608822192/ref=pd_sim_14_5?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=1608822192&pd_rd_r=WR0Z2MRCPF4WZG5QWY9B&pd_rd_w=vXpmS&pd_rd_wg=Dn6ha&psc=1&refRID=WR0Z2MRCPF4WZG5QWY9B
If those don't work for you, just search for "bipolar" on Amazon and see what speaks to you.
- Natasha Tracy
Ive had many relationships, many jobs, I will say this: My life sucks, too many people don't understand what it is, what its like, and how to deal with it.
Most people put on a face, then take advantage of it.
I persuaded my psychiatrist to get me into a group (I didn't 'qualify', not having borderline pd). But if you can't gain access to a DBT group, there's lots of it on the Net. I particularly recommend Kati Morton, who is an American clinical psychologist who specialises in DBT. She's brilliant - and as I said, DBT techniques really work to control angry outbursts. I've tried an anger management course, CBT (useless in my experience) and self-help measures including mindfulness. DBT wins hands down. Here's a link to one of her talks on calming anger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb3ii5lq0jM
Good luck Mike, I know it's not easy, but it IS possible to reduce anger attacks. Just remember that those of us who struggle with this strongest of emotions experience it more quickly, more often and for longer than those who don't have anger issues - and it really is NOT our fault. Best wishes...
I'm sorry if the comments upset you. Many people have many different views here. If you would like to be removed from the blog list (I assume an email) the ability to get off that list will be in the email. (I can't do it for you, sorry.)
- Natasha Tracy
I've been three years with a bipolar man.he's on the fortightly injections. He smokes bongs and drinks beer every day.when he was nice he's sweet at pie and can't do enough to make me happy. But then the nasty side comes out and he is absolutely horrible. Nasty swearing lying cheating other woman and Websites.he beat me up on an occasion . These people medicated or not are really nasty they have no concious and will break your heart and abuse you. Run a million miles from these people.
My credentials for querying the validity of this feature are as follows:
1. I am a journalist of 25 years' standing and this feature is not balanced - it has a bias which it sets out from the beginning to 'prove'.
2. I suffer from bipolar disorder and have this irritable tendency when ill - or 'episodic' - and I can promise you, as can anyone who knows me well, that when I am stable I am not irritable in the slightest. My character is naturally placid and easygoing, but when ill I become a different person who behaves out of character, which ironically is characteristic of someone in the grip of a bipolar mood episode.
I find this article bordering on offensive in its assertions, as they are generalistic, poorly supported and based on a set of false assumptions. And added to that, the author appears to be nestling in a cocoon of self-satisfaction as being someone who is slow to anger. If she were not, she might not judge others - who cannot control their anger due to their illness - so harshly.
I appreciate that you may have been in a bad situation, but not all people with bipolar disorder are alike. I am nothing like you describe. We are all different.
- Natasha Tracy
I SUPPORT MY FAMILY.COOK.CLEAN AND do the best I can as a father.and husband as well as a person.
Thank you for your comment. I'm not sure what you mean when you say confusion around diagnostic labels in the article. Where do you feel there is confusion?
- Natasha Tracy
I'm sorry that you find the comments so distressing. Unfortunately, this is what you see all over the Internet. I believe the freedom of speech is very important -- even for those with whom I vehemently disagree.
- Natasha Tracy
The question is, why are YOU so afraid to acknowledge and have empathy for the people that have been left hurt( and sometimes traumatized) by BPD people who have abused them? Do you really think that this is all you just about YOU and your disease ? Sorry, it's not, and people who have been victims of the abuse dished out by mentally ill people have a right to be upset about it , and voice it.
On a small scale , if you step on my toe and it hurts, I have right to say "get off my toe! If I am hurt by someone, I have the right to object and to walk away. No thanks, I deserve to be treated better than 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 .
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.
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.