How to Deal with Bipolar Disorder and Anger
Anger can be tough to deal with in bipolar disorder. Some people really do find they get extremely angry often for no reason other than bipolar disorder. And, as most people know, feeling angry, and even worse, acting angrily, are not positive experiences. Here are some tips on dealing with anger in bipolar disorder.
Is Anger a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder?
Anger is not a diagnostic symptom of bipolar disorder (although psychomotor agitation is). This would suggest that many people with bipolar do not experience this symptom. Nevertheless, I have come to my own conclusions on this point from my own experience and from hearing from others with bipolar disorder. It really does seem that many with bipolar disorder do experience anger – from a low simmer to an absolute rage.
What Is Anger?
I have written an article about why it’s pointless to be angry. In short, anger tends to be hiding another emotion. Anger is a superficial emotion. It’s something we feel and express because we don’t want to feel and express what’s underneath it. And if you really walk back that emotion and figure out what’s deep, deep underneath, it’s usually a fear of not being loved that causes that extreme emotion.
That said, some bipolar rages may not obey this rule.
Walking Away from Bipolar Disorder-Related Anger
The first thing you need to do if you feel like you can’t control your anger in the moment is to walk away. It critical to make the priority not taking anger out on others. Taking anger out on others because you have a mental illness is not fair. It hurts your relationships and, ultimately, you (How To Express Anger Safely).
If you do walk away, be sure to tell the people why you’re walking way. Make sure and tell them that you’re walking away to consider your strong emotions and that you will talk about it later.
Can You Talk Yourself Out of Anger in Bipolar Disorder?
First off, I think it’s really critical to deeply understand that either:
- Anger is covering up another emotion that we absolutely need to dig up and deal with, or
- The anger is a product of bipolar disorder alone.
In either case, I think logic is key. When you start to feel angry, you need to face it logically, not emotionally. You need to take a step back and say, “What is causing this anger? Is it triggering an emotion in me or is it just a random, bipolar-related mood?”
Once you realize whether you fall into category one or category two, you can start to talk yourself down.
In category one, you can uncover the layers that hide underneath the anger and talk to someone (like a therapist or a loved one) about that. If you’re in category two, you can start to deep breathe, count to 10 (or 100) while focusing on your breath, practice yoga or do a relaxation exercise until the anger starts to calm.
One thing that can help you with treating your emotions logically is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If you don’t have a professional who specializes in CBT, or have access to a group that teaches CBT, check out workbooks on CBT as they can help.
Bipolar Disorder Rages
Some anger is more aggressive than I have suggested above. I understand that. If you truly experience uncontrollable rages, you need to:
- Discuss it with your doctor. It could be a medication side effect or a severe bipolar symptom. Either way, a medication change may address it.
- Discuss the issue with your therapist. Your therapist is going to be able to teach you many tools to use when rage strikes.
When You Take Bipolar Disorder Anger Out on Others
Like I said, your priority needs to be not taking out your anger on others. However, no one is perfect and sometimes other parties are harmed by our bipolar symptoms. If this happens, you need to apologize and make amends for you actions. Once the anger has passed and you have a chance to logically look at it, you need to explain what happened to the person you hurt. You also need to explain how you’re going to address the problem in the future.
Because even though your anger might have been a bipolar symptom, you still need to take responsibility for your own actions. It’s important to realize that a reason doesn’t serve as an excuse.
Image by The Blue Diamond Gallery.
Tracy, N. (2016, May 4). How to Deal with Bipolar Disorder and Anger, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2016/05/how-to-deal-with-bipolar-disorder-and-anger
Author: Natasha Tracy
I experience anger in both of the ways you describe. I'm 52 and only recently came to understand that my anger is protective. I'm actually afraid, but I don't feel the fear; I feel the anger.
My therapist also told me that sometimes my anger is a depression symptom. Sometimes it's a hypomania symptom. He is the one who has to sort that out for me because I honestly can't tell.
Sometimes I get angry because someone did or said something that genuinely irritates me. When that happens, I do my best to be quiet and kind until I can get away. Then I take the time to feel the feeling, write about it, and share my feelings with another person.
Thanks again for the article.
I am concerned that your article tends toward dismissing anger and rage as a sign of other emotions or issues. It would appear that you view anger as a 'wrong' or 'inappropriate' response even to other emotions or issues!
My question is "why would someone with bi-polar be considered to be unnecessarily angry when someone without bi-polar is justified in experiencing or expressing anger or rage?"
Anger and rage are a justified response to being mistreated, misunderstood, silenced, ignored or abused whether it be emotionally, physically, psychologically or verbally. In many cases people who have bi-polar have been traumatised in this way.