Bipolar disorder and Anger: How to Cope

Bipolar anger has been defined by individuals living with the condition as impulsive, intense, and explosive. It causes people to act in ways they normally wouldn’t. While anger isn’t necessarily a symptom of bipolar disorder, studies show people with bipolar disorder experience intense anger and aggression. 

Growing up, I recall several moments where my anger completely took over. It was as though I was possessed. It’s something that’s hard to explain to a person that wasn’t there to witness it. I’d go from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye, yelling, cursing, breaking, and throwing things. I’d punch holes in the walls and pick fights, mainly with my mom. All it took was for one thing to trigger my anger. Even before I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, everyone in my household speculated that I had it. I lived with a fiery rage inside of me. This led to me doing and saying hurtful things to others. It turned me into a beast. These episodes of anger were so explosive that there were times my mom threatened to call 911. 

Over the years, with the help of a lot of therapy and medication, I’ve calmed down a lot. However, that rage still lingers inside of me. There are moments I feel myself getting so hot, moments I can feel my pot getting ready to explode… and sometimes it does. Other times, I’m able to walk away and calm myself. I’ve noticed that I’m more irritable and aggressive when I’m experiencing a manic episode. An “explosion” is more likely to happen when I’m manic versus depressed. 

Irritability and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder which means it affects your mood and causes a vast array of symptoms. Irritability is common in people with bipolar disorder and mostly presents itself during manic episodes but can also be seen in depressive episodes. It can start as something small like being asked a simple question, then suddenly you go from being irritated to full-blown rage. The extreme shifts in moods that a person feels when they’re having an episode can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, making them more irritable. 

Ways to Cope and Calm Down

  1. Counting. Count down starting at 20. This will distract you and give you a chance to calm down.
  2. Take deep breaths. This one is crucial. Taking a moment to breathe when you feel yourself becoming irate can help calm you before things get out of control.
  3. Stop, pause, and think. Stop and think before you react. Now, I fully acknowledge this can be difficult when you’re in the midst of an episode, but taking a moment to stop before you react can change the outcome of the situation.
  4. Walk away. If someone is irritating or upsetting you, walk away. Tell them you’re going to take some time to cool off. 
  5. Repeat calming words or phrases. Something I repeat to myself is, “I am calm.” Find a few words you can say to yourself when you start feeling angry.
  6. Listen to music. This is a great way to calm yourself. There’s something about music that is so healing and soothing. 
  7. Write out your triggers. Learning to identify your triggers can help you analyze which situations cause you to become angry and allow you to handle yourself better next time. 
  8. Seek therapy. This is great for long-term treatment. Working with a therapist will help you manage the symptoms you experience during episodes.
  9. Take your medication. If you’re on meds, continue taking them. If you feel like you’re not seeing any improvement, it might be time to talk to your provider about a medication adjustment. 
  10. Practice meditation. Meditating regularly has been known to improve mood. It also gives you space to sit with your thoughts and feelings, allowing them to come and go. 

It’s important to remember that anger is a normal emotion, however, if you’re becoming uncontrollably angry, it’s time to start utilizing methods to help manage your emotions.

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

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