According to studies, rage can be a common symptom of bipolar disorder. If you're living with bipolar disorder or love someone with this condition, it can be challenging to cope with unwanted or unexpected anger or rage.
The emotions that often accompany bipolar disorder may have a negative impact on your social life and self-esteem. However, there are tools to help you control your nervous system, increase moments of joy, and improve your mental health and well-being in the long term.
Understanding This Disorder
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression) is a mental health condition that causes "unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks." There are four diagnoses under the bipolar disorder category in the DSM-5, sorted based on the highs (mania) and lows (depression) that an individual experiences, including the following:
- Bipolar I Disorder: Manic episodes last at least one week and can lead to severe symptoms requiring immediate medical attention. A similar cycle may occur during depressive episodes.
- Bipolar II Disorder: This condition involves depressive episodes and less severe periods of hyperactivity and energy (hypomania).
- Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia): With cyclothymia, an individual presents with mild hypomanic and depressive symptoms. These symptoms are diagnosed after two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents.
- Related Disorders (Unspecified): This condition may be diagnosed when a client's symptoms don't meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymia.
What Are The Differences Between Mania, Hypomania, And Depression?
This disorder causes shifts between manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes. Manic episodes, only present in bipolar I disorder, include:
- Elevated elation
- High levels of energy
- Increased activity levels
- Fast speech
- Increased risk-taking
- A decreased amount of sleep
- Difficulty connecting with reality
- Grandiosity (highly inflated self-esteem)
Hypomanic episodes, which may be present in all forms of this disorder, can include the following symptoms:
- Elevated mood
- More energy than usual
- Increased motivation
- Feeling happier than usual
- Racing thoughts
- An inflated self-esteem
Note that mania often lasts at least one week, whereas hypomania often lasts a few days. In addition, hypomania is often considered less severe. Despite this, it can still have challenging impacts on the individual experiencing it.
Depressive episodes, present in most forms of this disorder, may include the following symptoms:
- Feeling persistently low in mood
- A lack of energy
- A lack of motivation
- Struggling to care for your personal hygiene or daily responsibilities
- A lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Overwhelming worry
- Lack of concentration
- Appetite changes
- Suicidal ideation
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or urges, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text 988 to talk to a crisis provider over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support. 988 also offers an online chat for those with an internet connection.
Is Anger A Symptom Of Bipolar Disorder?
- Yelling at others
- An urge to hit walls or destroy objects
- An urge to hurt someone else or yourself
- Anger-related crying
- Feeling "hot" or "flushed"
- Difficulty focusing on your environment
- Having a sense of being "out of your body"
- Perceiving a need for immediate resolution
- Quick anger that is difficult to calm
When these emotions occur, it can be beneficial to implement coping strategies and take a break from the interaction if you're talking to others. Bipolar disorder specifically can be managed with medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Taking steps to prioritize your mental health can help get symptoms in check and maintain healthier relationships.
Coping With Rage & Other Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
Anger and rage can be difficult emotions to experience, but there are various ways to reduce your symptom severity. If you’re experiencing rage, you can take several steps to help manage your symptoms and use coping strategies to work towards a healthy reaction. The tools below may help as you look to cope with your anger more healthily.
Understand Your Patterns
If you want to reduce your anger, it may be beneficial to think about how you've acted in past situations where you felt angry and what areas of growth you might focus on. For example, if you frequently yell at others when you're angry, you can remember what inciting events cause you to want to yell verbal attacks and try to avoid those events. If you perceive that you cannot control your vocal volume when angry, taking a step back may be more beneficial before responding to someone with verbal abuse.
The mind and body are connected, so physical changes like exhaustion or hunger can often cause you to lose control of your anger and prompt emotional outbursts. After a few days of tracking your mood, you might notice that you often feel angriest before lunch, or a few days before your menstrual period, for instance. After concluding that these are inciting events for anger, you can set a reminder for yourself to practice other coping skills during these days or times of the day.
Take A Break
When anger and rage appear, you might be so focused on your emotions that you struggle to focus on your environment, the people around you, and your logical mind. Although it can be challenging to step back, try to take a break before responding to the situation about which you feel angry.
During this time alone, try partaking in an activity. You could exercise, read, or try a breathing exercise. When you start to feel more controlled, spend a few minutes reflecting on the causes of your anger so you can avoid them in the future, if possible. When you're ready to return to the situation, do so with a calm mind and an idea of what you want to say and how you might react if the situation doesn't go as you hope.
Keep A Journal
Journaling is a form of expressive art that can reduce stress and allow introspection. You can write in a notebook, art pad, or smart device. Some people journal by collaging, whereas others might try drawing pictures. A visual journal might be preferable if you're not a writer. However, if you don't know how to draw or prefer a traditional journal, you can write entries to which you can return and read in the future.
Utilize Support Groups
Although friends and family members may support you through your symptoms of bipolar disorder, they may not understand what you're fully experiencing. In this case, support groups might be an effective resource. These groups offer a place for people with similar diagnoses to vent and gain advice. In addition, support groups are often free. Though they are not a replacement for therapeutic guidance from a licensed professional, they can be a beneficial way to connect with others living with this disorder and anger.
Request Patience From Others
Bipolar disorder-related anger may impact your relationships and those with whom you interact if it involves challenging behaviors or the unkind treatment of others. It might benefit you to request patience from others while simultaneously letting them know you are working on your anger and know it can be challenging.
Anger and rage are symptoms of the condition, and it can be possible to both feel these emotions and remain healthy in your behavioral patterns.
Reach Out To A Therapist
Effective treatment includes a combination of medications like mood stabilizers and psychotherapy. Many people with bipolar disorder find receiving treatment like therapy a practical and valuable resource for coping with anger. Talking to a therapist may allow you to process the often-complicated feelings that can occur with a mood disorder like bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.
If you're thinking about therapy and are unsure where to start, consider an online option. Research suggests that online therapy is an effective form of treatment for individuals living with mood disorders. One study found that internet-delivered treatment based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) could effectively treat bipolar disorder symptoms in some clients.
Through an online platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a therapist with expertise in bipolar disorder and its symptoms. By being able to attend therapy from home, you can focus on treating your symptoms in an environment where you feel most comfortable. If traffic, parking, or leaving home are causes of anger for you, you may also be able to avoid these events by talking to a therapist online.
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