Managing Bipolar Anger And Rage

Updated December 18, 2018

Reviewer Sonya Bruner

According to NIMH, Bipolar Disorder - also known as Manic Depressive Disorder, is a mental illness which causes "unusual shifts in the mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks." This disorder is comprised of four types, and it can be categorized based on the highs (mania) and lows (depression) of the mood of the person diagnosed with this condition.

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  • Bipolar I Disorder - This manic episode lasts for at least one week (7 days) and can lead to severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. This can also occur during depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar II Disorder - This categorizes depressive episodes and the less severe manic episodes (hypomanic).
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia) - This consists of many, if not several, hypomanic and depressive symptoms but does not necessarily satisfy the requirements for diagnosing it as a hypomanic or depressive episode. It can last up to two years in adults and one year in both children and adolescents.
  • Related Disorders (Unspecified) - a very mild bipolar disorder that is categorized by symptoms of bipolar disorder, but not at the level or severity necessary for a diagnosis of Bipolar I or II, or Cyclothymia.

Bipolar Mania Vs. Depression

A person who has Bipolar Disorder will shift between mania (or less severely, hypomania) and depression.

Manic episodes include:

  • Elevated elation (they feel very high or "up")
  • Lots of energy
  • Increased activity levels
  • Feels "wired" or "easily jumped"
  • Irritable and talks fast
  • Doing risky things and doing things all at once

Depressive episodes include:

  • Feel sad or down
  • Lower activity levels and energy
  • Have difficulty sleeping (may sleep too much or too little)
  • Feels hopeless and cannot find joy in anything
  • Worrisome and constantly feels empty
  • Forgetful, concentration is decreased
  • Feel tired constantly
  • Difficulty eating (either eating too much or too little)
  • Death ad suicidal thoughts

If a person starts to notice that he/she or a loved one is becoming highly active and productive, energetic, and "so happy", after days of feeling down and low, it is possible that this is mania. It may be important to seek medical help, including psychiatric help. It is essential to seek out professional help as simply telling someone with bipolar disorder to "cut it out" or trying to manage one's on symptoms is not enough.

Many times, bipolar patients who seek doctor's help when experiencing the low and depressive episodes are mistaken for someone dealing with major depression.

Bipolar Anger Outbursts

One of the scariest parts of bipolar disorder is the irritability that accompanies both mania and depression since it can quickly turn into anger and rage. Despite being aware of the degrading words (and things) they hurl at their partners, a person dealing with bipolar anger cannot stop themselves until they are "worn out" and finished with their episodes.

Sometimes the outbursts seem as if they come out of nowhere. Other times, a culprit can be pinpointed. Stress from the workplace can be a trigger sign for people with bipolar disorder. What seems like a harmless, little comment can become a blow-up, an unanswered text can cause an argument with a spouse.

This can affect various relationships that in times cannot be mended just by apologizing afterward.

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Why Is It Such A Big Deal?

Findings from various studies show that being angry all the time (whether you have bipolar anger and rage or not) can lead to an array of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, headaches, insomnia and digestive problems.

While being angry is okay as it is a natural and logical emotional response to things that upset us, feeling angry and lashing out uncontrollably may prohibit the person with bipolar anger from socializing and effectively interacting with other people. It can lead to friends avoiding you and stop inviting you to social hangouts and dinner parties. Your loved ones may distance themselves as they see that having a genuinely honest discussion or healthy argument with you is impossible.

After their episode ends, you may feel regret and be ashamed of what you had said and done while you are having what may feel like an out-of-body experience. You may not even be aware that you are being too aggressive and continue to rage. The cycle goes on: be in a fit of rage, realize the mistakes said, apologize to people, shift into a depressive state.

What Can Be Done?

Fortunately, there are ways to combat the irritability that accompanies the mood disorder and stop bipolar anger and rage in their tracks.

Know Yourself

The first step is knowing your anger and what triggers it. One way to do this is to keep a mood journal or a download a mood app and track your ups and downs throughout the day.

Your emotions and body are tied together, and emotional outbursts are often prompted by physical changes such as exhaustion from lack of sleep or hunger. If after a few days of tracking you notice that you are angrier around 2 pm every day and this is the same time your stomach is growling, there might be a connection.

Take A Timeout

One of the problems with tracking mood is that when you're inside of a shift and experiencing bipolar anger and rage, it's hard to be clear about what's going on as well as what you feel. It may seem elementary, but one of the best things you can do when you feel yourself getting ready to careen out of control is to turn the heat down by introducing time or space.

During this alone time, you should do something that helps you relax. Exercise, read, breathe, whatever it takes. Then spend a few minutes reflecting on what caused the bout of bipolar anger or rage you were experiencing and think of a way to avoid similar triggers in the future.

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Keep A Journal

You can do this on your phone or an old-fashioned journal. By putting your reflections and plans down in writing, you are much more likely to follow through.

The solution to each trigger can be simple or more detailed. For example, if you know that a messy house will send you into a fit of rage, maybe you should come up with a chore schedule for your family so that future blowups can be avoided. Or if you know that losing sleep will cause you to be moody, you should make sure to get into bed at a reasonable time.

Talk To Your Doctor About Your Medicine

Some medications can worsen irritability and anger in those with bipolar disorder. Medicine adjustments take time, and you should never stop your medication without speaking to your doctor first. But if you believe that your bipolar anger and rage may be linked to your medication, consult your physician right away. And keep in mind that taking your medication regularly is one of the best ways to avoid mood swings and angry episodes before they even begin.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Many doctors suggest Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help control and curb the urge to shift into an anger machine - this takes time to master fully. Learning the triggers that provoke outbursts can help manage bipolar anger and rage. Coping mechanisms are also important. A professional therapist is the person to guide you through this process and will be an invaluable part of your overall recovery.

Lean On Others

Although friends and family might try to support you and help you through the ups and downs of living with bipolar disorder, unless they struggle with the same issues, empathy will be difficult to give. For this reason, support groups (online or otherwise) are a great source of support. Facebook has several Bipolar support groups that are 'hidden' and only allow members to post and read responses, making these groups a great place to vent and gain advice. You can also check into local support resources.

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For The People Living With Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder

The fight against bipolar anger is not just for the patient, but also for the people he or she is surrounded with.

Be patient. Bipolar anger and rage are part of the condition. It is best to be aware of and learn about the condition to better help the individual in dealing with it. They are not angry towards you. They might say things that are truly hurtful causing you to cower in fear amidst their fits of rage. But chances are, their anger is not caused by you. You need support too. Look for community support groups in your area that discuss things you can do to help your loved ones.

Dealing with someone who has bipolar anger and rage takes patience, strength, and dedication.

Taking things one day at a time, it is possible for you or your loved one to lessen the occurrence of bipolar anger and rage and take back control once and for all.


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