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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.

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

  1. Hi
    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.

  2. I’m sorry but this is a really ignorant feature. 1/3rd of people with bipolar disorder have this problem with anger, it is NOT universal in sufferers as the author states. Where on earth is she getting her facts from? She talks as if she is an authority, but that is a basic statistical fact that she’s missed entirely. Another assertion she makes is that people with bipolar who have this tendency to irritability have it all the time, in or out of an episode (which incidentally means a prolonged period of abnormal mood, whether high or low, and sometimes including psychosis and sometimes not, again, not everyone gets psychosis). That is absolutely not true. I really cannot give any credence to the study she quotes, since it is not new, is only an extract and is ONE study and therefore cannot be held to be conclusive – there are many studies on this topic that would refute the findings of this one.
    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.

  3. OMG my girlfriend dating for 11 yrs now but these last 5-6 years has been hell for me… inpatient.angry.irratable.everything sucks and people and even God she hates…and gets upset in little things n start goin off n me trying to explain makes her get more angry n curse me out and say nasty mean things n then it goes from there to recurring old stuff and throwing stuff when I don’t wanna suck up to her the next day or if I say no it’s f**k u n get out n the next b**ch would love to b here and little do she Kno no one wants to out up this behavior…she have been in a place before she got pulled n was very manic but after she got out it was I’m ok now I DNT need meds…but I’m goin to he dine with her I live n care for her n DNT wanna c her with a relationship with her kids which r staying at the there dad’s bcuz of her moods…wen I leave I hope she realize she need to get help n gets mad a me n say shat up wen I say she really needs professional help..everything is never her fault I have been evicted n started all over bcuz she refuses help n is turning to drugs n alcohol..n she sees there’s no problem with what she’s doing…I know if I leave she will drop economic and not have a roof over her head..but I can’t continue to let her drive me in the ground..I’m afraid for my life bcuz when she really goes of it’s threats…it just kills me that she won’t try n get help…I’m asking when does she take meds n call n talk to her doctor for recommendations for help for bipolar n addictions…this is sad when there indenial n DNT want help [moderated]

    1. Do yourself a favor and make the break. Ask yourself as a healthy person do you want in a relationship with a bipolar person? She will endlessly torture you. Violence, anger, aggression, lying, self entitlement, grandiosity. I wish I had know about all of this before I left a bipolar person into my life. They will take, take, take from you and manipulate you, threaten suicide, it goes on and on. A bottomless pit for money and attention. Then you have the sexual inappropriateness. You will be on a roller coaster for life if you stay with this person. Their pattern is to find one victim after another. The world should be warned about these individuals and learn how to see the symptoms so they can protect themselves. Our problem is we just think everyone is like us, not being psychologist or doctor, it’s off our radar screen. Innocent, regular people find themselves entrapped in a nightmare with these folks. This is information that should be taught in high school. I am very sorry you have been in this for 11 years. You deserve real happiness, intimacy and love.

      1. Hi Sleepless,

        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

  4. Combined with my anxiety, stress leads to feeling frustrated and then angry. Anger can range from a negative attitude of complaining all the way to cursing and throwing items or hitting items, but not people. It’s hard to differentiate between anxiety as an unofficial symptom of the mood disorder or is it GAD. It’s really not which as much as it is how generalized anxiety does lead to low frustration tolerance and becoming “pissed off” much easier than those without BP I or BP II. BP diagnoses need to be revamped to include anger, aggression, and anxiety.

  5. Reading all of these comments have been so insightful! I thought I was going crazy dealing with a boyfriend who I truly feel has BPD. I thought I had met the man of my dreams. Absolutely what any woman would want. Charming, a true gentlemen, very good looking etc. within months of dating he would randomly say “I’m not crazy”. I would laugh it off and ask why he kept saying that? He started being emotional over simple disagreements not even arguments. He started created arguments. Saying I was being “volatile, or aggressive”. Words no one who knows me would ever use. Originally I thought he was just moody. When I asked him why he was being moody he would get extremely irritable. We traveled out of town and he had a total breakdown. He was totally depressed, he called my friends, family and lied about everything. We eventually got back together two months later. Confessing our love for one another. At that time I still didn’t realize what he was dealing with. After speaking with a friend in the medical field she immediately said she believed he was bi polar. Me being in denial also. I felt so bad and realized he simply could not help it. I suggested we go to counseling and he originally agreed. However, every attempt I made he created an excuse. He planned 3 major vacation trips within 3 months, Cabo, a cruise, and Hawaii. I was so afraid to Tavel with him because of what happened before. I got more aggressive with trying to make an appointment to see someone. The harder I tried the more irritable he became. We never got to see a professional before our first trip. And 4 days into an amazing vacation he blew up over absolutely nothing. Called me really horrible and disgusting names. I couldn’t control myself and said its time for me to say that I know you are dealing with bipolar. And I truly believe you already know this. He became very distant, withdrawn, but angry. We eventually apologized to one another, after I went to him and asked him to forgive me etc. we agreed to make the best of the remaining trip and discuss matters when we get back. He was a little withdrawn but I could see he was making an effort. Once we got back, we do not live together. I felt we both needed space, after a few days I went over his place with gifts because his birthday was the following day. He looked at me like I was an alien. Asking what are you doing here? You can’t be that naive to think we’re together. He brought up every response to the argument from the trip. He never mentioned anything or bad name he called me. He only remembered my responses. He took back hs keys, gave me mine. Stuffed all of my things in a box and said I had to leave. He looked like a totally different person, nothing in his eyes. He kept saying “this is my house” as if i was refusing to leave or saying it was mine” he was paranoid, angry etc. It was so heartbreaking. I just left. I sent him a email professing my love and outlining all the strange behaviors saying I know he will not remember any of this once he comes out of this episode. He emailed back outlining all the money he spent for gifts, and trips. Saying he has already moved on etc. mind you we were together a total 15 months, and he constantly shared that he has never been in love like this etc. it’s been a month now. I really want to just et him know I care. Not certain if I could go back. Although I miss the good part of him. I just know he’s alone and when he realizes what happened he will regret it. But he won’t get help. He also has a sister with BP. That he absolutely cannot stand. Now I know why. If anyone has any tips on how or if I should reach out I would really appreciate it. God bless you all.

      1. My experience is that “space” during an acute or active phase literally means one of two things. I am depressed and want to be alone, or I’m very angry and do not want anyone around me, which could be his way of trying to protect you from his anger or outbursts. Htike

    1. Hi Leah, Your story is almost exactly my own. I can’t believe how similar. My guilt, my pity, his inability to remember the really hateful hurtful tings he has said, nor apologize, take responsibility etc. It is killing me, I am changing into a self doubting person filled with fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. I always say it’s like dating the fairy tale: “when he was good he was very very good, but when he was bad he was awful.” We can’t save these people. We have to walk away. My heart is totally broken. I feel your pain and frustration 100%.

    2. Consider yourself blessed that he ended it with you and is not stalking you. For your health and safety, you should not go back under any circumstances, just drop him completely. You are correct BP runs in families. They will always be this way, if they get help, they will go off their meds and the meds are not perfect either and only diminish the symptoms. In short consider this a lesson learned and move on, you now know about BP 2. These people have no problem literally destroying your life and they will justify it. You can’t have a real, happy, stable relationship with someone who is bipolar. He will find a new victim, he will use his charm and good looks and find someone new who is clueless and then the pattern will repeat itself. Thank god you were lucky and did not marry him or have children with him. I am unhappy that the general public is not warned and taught about who these people are and what they do. Myself and other people I know have been victimized by these people; I wish I had known back then what I know now. I suggest you see a therapist to get over the trauma he inflicted on you and understand he is mentally ill and will not change. 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population 18 and older has bipolar, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This is why it is a good idea to get to know someone before getting committed and maybe stuck in a situation you cannot get out of. My heart breaks for everyone who has been thru this. I have seen these BP 2 people commit violent physical attacks, extortion and blackmail, theft, lying, cheating and have false memory syndrome. All while exclaiming they are special, more special than you or I and we should cater to their every whim and desire due to their specialness. For instance dating someone for a few months and having sex a few times means you own them a house. The self entitlement is off the charts. I suspect BP 2 is attached to other personality disorders commonly.

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