How To Interact And Deal With Someone Experiencing Bipolar Anger & Rage

By Nadia Khan|Updated May 3, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Audrey Kelly, LMFT

When we think of bipolar disorder, we naturally focus on the individual with the illness and their emotions, whether those be anger or rage. It’s not often we stop to think about all the challenges their bipolar loved ones face, outside of their anger or rage.

Constantly wondering if those around you are going to feel anger or even be mad at you can be uncomfortable. This anger especially can be intimidating.

You may feel like you’re losing a part of yourself and wonder if the relationship is worth fighting for. You feel intimidated, scared, or hurt. But before you lose all hope, find out what you can do to interact with someone who experiences bipolar anger.

NOTE: If bipolar anger has ever caused you or someone you love to become the victim of abuse, reach out to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

Are You In A Relationship With Someone Who Has It?

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Are You In A Relationship With Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder?

What Is Bipolar Disorder? First, let’s take a look at the disorder itself. Bipolar disorder (BPD) is extremely complex and requires a doctor’s diagnosis. Meanwhile, here’s what we know so far.

Bipolar disorder is a common mental health condition that causes people to experience extreme shifts in mood and behavior. These mood swings can occur without warning and may severely impact the individual’s life.

Unpredictable behavior patterns can make it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks. Those patterns may also affect the individual’s energy and activity levels. People experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder often go through polar opposite phases, meaning they’re either “up” or “down.”

During the “up” times, they’re full of energy and can give the appearance of being “overly happy” and easily excited. On the flip side, the “down” times come with extreme lethargy, apathy, and anger. Psychologists know these lows as depressive episodes.

Emotions are a normal aspect of human life. We experience them every day as we swim through the ebb and flow. But people who experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder feel these mood swings more intensely and unpredictably.

Moreover, their moods don’t shift as quickly as some people think. There’s a long period of high or mania in most cases, followed by an equally long period of low or depression. Anxiety, low self-esteem, irritability, and paranoia are often tagalongs. And untreated bipolar disorder may also lead to bouts of rage and anger.

What Is It?

Bipolar anger is not like normal, healthy anger. Like happiness and sadness, anger is a perfectly natural reaction to meaningful or upsetting experiences. However, bipolar anger is different because it’s not always caused by external events and is less easily controlled.

With bipolar anger, seemingly small things can trigger a big reaction. Little stimulants that might otherwise be handled more calmly get processed through anger instead. And something that wouldn’t normally make someone mad might make a person with bipolar anger symptoms lash out irrationally. This could manifest as angry outbursts or emotional meltdowns.

Thus, being in a relationship or living with someone who experiences bipolar anger can be extremely difficult. Due to the volatile nature of their anger, maintaining healthy communication may prove impossible. So, if you’re in a relationship with someone who experiences bipolar anger, remind yourself that it’s not easy for anyone.

At times, your loved one may even recognize that their anger is unwarranted. Yet, the intense emotions are still impossible to control, especially during a depressive episode. The best thing you can do for your relationship and your mental health is to learn how to recognize bipolar anger. Then, develop the tools to respond in a productive and supportive way.

The Impacts Of This Anger

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When left unchecked, bipolar anger can lead to many negative side effects. The constant state of being out of control, angry, and irritable takes an enormous toll on everyone. That’s because bipolar anger can cause people to lose their most important relationships, including spouses, children, friends, and colleagues.

Both you and your partner may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms in response. For example:

Substance Abuse

Some people may be tempted to use alcohol or drugs to numb their emotions. Substance abuse usually starts with small acts, such as wanting or needing a glass of wine at the end of a bad day. And while drinking wine is fine, using it to cope with a rocky relationship can be a slippery slope.

Mood-altering substances seldom improve the situation. Circumstances can become even harder to manage as well. So, if you or your loved one has turned to drugs or alcohol to cope, seek help through the American Addiction Centers immediately.

Detachment Issues

Disconnecting with the people and things you love is common when bipolar anger is in the picture. Most people can only put up with someone’s uncontrolled fury for so long before they have to disconnect. This can cause major rifts in your personal and professional life.

Putting some space between you and an uncontrollably angry person may be wise, but complete isolation is not. That habit may perpetuate the problem or make it even worse. In this case, the smartest solution is counseling from a licensed mental health therapist.

Effects of Anger on Overcompensating

You and your loved one may cope by overspending or overcompensating in another way. The angry one may feel guilty and try to win back the other’s affection through material means. Overspending may also be the result of trying to fill a proverbial hole in your heart.

Spending money to cheer yourself up may make you feel better for a moment. But living beyond your means will only cause more problems and stress. Nothing you can buy will address the negative feelings and confusion you’re experiencing. Get professional help instead.

Effects of Anger on Complacency

Some relationships that orbit around bipolar anger symptoms can turn abusive, and that’s not okay. Neither is just dealing with abuse to keep the peace. There needs to be mutual respect and understanding despite any underlying, undiagnosed, or untreated mental health conditions.

Meanwhile, abuse can take many forms. It can be physical, mental, emotional, financial, sexual, or verbal. Here’s how to tell the difference:

  • Physical abuse consists of hitting, pushing, grabbing, kicking, or other unwanted physical contacts.
  • Mental abuse is when someone uses manipulative tactics to coerce certain reactions and behaviors.
  • Emotional abuse involves passive-aggressiveness, controlling, and blaming others for bad behavior.
  • Financial abuse is defined as unfair or manipulatively restricting living expenses to incite behaviors or reactions.
  • Sexual abuse is when someone inappropriately touches you, becomes uncomfortably suggestive, or harasses you about sex.
  • Verbal abuse consists of throwing insults, belittling, calling names, and trying to embarrass or shame you.

Remember, having a mental illness is not an excuse to be abusive. If you or your loved one becomes violent or cruel, seek help right away.

12 Tips For Interacting With Someone Who Experiences Bipolar Anger

Interacting with someone who experiences the symptoms of bipolar anger can be challenging. So first, practice healthy coping skills to avoid the common pitfalls discussed above. As you begin to understand your loved one’s condition better, you’ll also learn to anticipate and manage their anger.

In the meantime, here are a dozen quick strategies to help you cope until you can find a therapist:

  1. Hold Them Accountable– Let them know who their angry outbursts make you feel.
  2. Protect Your Boundaries– Don’t become complacent or easily persuaded by passive aggression.
  3. Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected– Mind your reactions to their anger, and don’t stoke the fire.
  4. Engage with Positivity – Try not to be discouraging or overly critical of their condition.
  5. Be Encouraging – Offer inspiration to calm down with friendly and positive reminders.
  6. Redirect Outbursts – Find a way to distract them and pull their attention to something else.
  7. Avoid Triggers – Learn what sets them off and eliminate them from your lifestyle.
  8. Practice Self-Care – Take care of yourself to think and act reasonably.
  9. Promote Healthy Choices – Say nice things when achieving a goal or meeting a deadline.
  10. Work on Your Responses– Actively train your brain to respond differently to anger and rage.
  11. Support Individuality – Give your loved ones space to explore and understand their mentality.
  12. Discuss Family/Couples Counseling – Bring it up gently and talk about the pros and cons. 

Are You In A Relationship With Someone Who Has Bipolar Disorder?

Furthermore, be sure your loved one takes any medication prescribed by their doctor. This is important even if your loved one isn’t experiencing symptoms at the moment. And remember, their anger is not about you.

If possible, talk about the situation to trusted family and friends. See if anyone knows about a particular strategy to help soothe this individual. You can look for affordable resources in your community as well. Whatever the case, never feel guilty for prioritizing self-care and find a licensed therapist as soon as you can.

Put An End To Bipolar Anger

Although bipolar disorder can never be cured, it can be treated and managed with proper care and commitment. Treatments generally include counseling, medication, self-care, and anger management training. Couples, family, individual, and groups therapies are used as well.

If you’re in a relationship with someone who experiences bipolar anger, help is available. You are not alone, and neither is your loved one. BetterHelp therapists understand the extraordinary impact it has on an individual their relationships. Today is the day you learn how to interact with someone who experiences bipolar anger.

BetterHelp review #228886

Date of review: September 22, 2021

BetterHelp user L.A. wrote a review after working with Katrina Balovlenkov for seven months on issues concerning depression, stress, anxiety, relationship issues, trauma and abuse, grief, self-esteem, bipolar disorder, coping with life changes, and ADHD

Katrina B is amazing! She focuses on working through your traumas, anxieties, fears, and history to reach the healthy and peaceful mindset that we all try to find. The only way to truly heal is through yourself, and, with her methods, you are given every tool you need to dig yourself out of whatever hole life’s thrown you down into. I am forever grateful for the guidance, friendly ear, patience, and joy Katrina constantly brings to every session. Thank you, Katrina!!!

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