Managing Anger From Bipolar Disorder

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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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 rage. 

The emotions that often accompany bipolar disorder may have a negative impact on your social life, mental health, 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.

Address anger and rage with a non-judgmental professional

Understanding bipolar 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. People who experience episodes, only present in bipolar I disorder, may have the following symptoms:

  • Elevated elation
  • High levels of energy
  • Increased activity levels
  • Jitters
  • Irritability
  • Fast speech
  • Increased risk-taking
  • Delusions
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • A decreased amount of sleep
  • Difficulty connecting with reality 
  • Grandiosity (highly inflated self-esteem) 

Hypomaniac symptoms

Hypomanic episodes, which may be present in all forms of this disorder, can include the following symptoms:

  • Elevated mood 
  • More energy than usual
  • Irritability 
  • Increased motivation 
  • Feeling happier than usual
  • Hyperfocus
  • 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 health and wellness of the individual experiencing it. 

Depressive symptoms

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 
  • Irritability 

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?

Anger and rage can both occur in bipolar disorder and may be associated with both mania and depression. However, not everyone who lives with this disorder feels necessarily angry during an episode, and not everyone with anger management challenges has to have this disorder. Rage might be an unrecognized symptom and prompt the following behaviors:
  • 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 often be managed with medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Taking steps to prioritize your mental health may help you get symptoms in check and maintain healthier relationships.

Coping with bipolar disorder anger and other symptoms

Anger and rage can be difficult emotions to experience, but you may find that 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 toward a healthy reaction. The tools below may help if you’re experiencing symptoms on a regular basis.

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 might consider what triggers you and then 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. For example, after a few days of tracking your moods, you might notice that you often feel angriest before lunch or after driving home from work. 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 mental health break

When uncontrolled anger or 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, you might try engaging in an activity that calms you. You could exercise, read, or try a deep 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. For this regular exercise, 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 bipolar disorder support groups

Although you might have a friend or loved one who supports you through your symptoms, they may not understand what you're fully experiencing. In this case, support groups might be an effective resource for people diagnosed with this disorder. 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 mental illness and anger.

Request patience from others

Symptoms 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 managing symptoms, and you may want to acknowledge that you 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.

Address anger and rage with a non-judgmental professional

Reach out to a therapist for help

Effective treatment may include 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 and other mental health conditions.

If you're thinking about therapy and are unsure where to start, consider an online option. Research in the behavioral sciences 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 behavior and symptomology, whether you experience depression, rapid cyclings, rage, or other 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 obstacles by talking to a therapist online. An online therapist may be able to recommend other treatments and strategies to help you live a life free from excessive rage.

Counselor reviews

“I have been suffering from bipolar disorder for more than 15 years. I have spent three weeks so far counseling with Amie. Amie really listens and encourages you to take the next steps in your own development. At the start, she recommended I join a peer support group, and I did, and it was really helpful. I would recommend Amie to anyone who cares about their treatment and wants an attentive and responsible therapist.”

“Bailey is grounded, understanding, genuine, empathetic, and experienced in a variety of different counseling and therapy practices. I feel like she meets me at my level, gives honest and helpful feedback, is reliable, and has been more effective in her methods of teaching me viable coping mechanisms... In fact, her sessions have helped me more than any other professionals have or other methods I’ve tried, including psychiatrists, nurses, naturopathic doctors, homeopathic doctors, other therapists, and medications. She’s able to give me weekly feedback in real time that I can use to address situations as they come up. I highly recommend Bailey for so many reasons, but my number one reason besides how knowledgeable she is, is her ability to meet me on my level. I feel like we’re equals in conversation instead of professional and patient. This facilitates my feeling able to talk about anything and everything with her without feeling judged. Because of this we’ve been able to tackle parts of my psyche that I have held back from other mental health professionals. I always look forward to our sessions. Even when they are difficult, they are effective. I feel like I’ve made more progress in my overall emotional and mental health with Bailey in a handful of months than I had in several years combined prior to this. Thank you, Bailey. You chose the right profession to help others, and I’m very grateful that I’ve found you as my counselor.”

Takeaway

Bipolar disorder can cause a variety of symptoms depending on the person and the type of this disorder they experience. People who live with this disorder can experience manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes. The symptoms of uncontrollable rage can cause significant challenges. If you're experiencing these emotions, know that you're not alone. Consider trying the above coping mechanisms and reaching out to a therapist for further guidance and support. Take the first step toward getting help and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Learn to separate anger from behavior
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