Bipolar disorder and anger

Outlining how bipolar disorder and anger are linked, and ways to defuse anger when it appears.

Call Us
Tap on a number to call

Anger and irritability are common symptoms of bipolar disorder. While anger is a normal response that many people feel at moments in their life, a person with bipolar disorder may be more vulnerable to impulsive and often irrational outbursts.

A person with bipolar disorder can experience anger when they're either manic or depressive. During a manic episode, the anger they feel may be directed at another person or group of people, while during a depressive episode, they may become angry at themselves. These intense mood swings can be incredibly distressing and leave a person feeling that they have little to no control over their emotions.

This bipolar rage - when uncontrolled - can then have a huge impact on a person’s friendships, family life and career. We'll look at how a person can identify and manage their triggers and subsequent symptoms so they can work towards defusing and preventing any flare ups in the future.

Why do people with bipolar get angry?

Anger can be triggered by many different things. Your triggers are likely to be different to other people's, and may include things such as making a mistake or offhand comments made by others.

To try and manage, try to keep a list of all the triggers that cause you to become angry. Think about how your body reacts to these triggers, and write these down too. You may notice that you become hostile towards people, your heart starts to pound and your ‘blood boils’ or you don’t want to talk to people. Understanding these triggers can help you manage your bipolar disorder and pinpoint moments when you're starting to feel angry so that you can put actions in place to defuse your feelings.

Strategies for defusing your anger

Some strategies that you can use to cope in moments when you're starting to become angry include:

  • Taking yourself away from what's causing you to become angry. During this time, you could focus your attention on your body by calmly counting to 10 and taking deep breaths
  • Starting an activity you find calming, such as listening to a soothing playlist or reading your favourite book
  • Putting your energy to good use. Go for a run, get out your art supplies or even do some baking
  • Contacting a trusted family member or friend who'll know how to help you at the time

You can also manage your anger symptoms by looking after your health and wellbeing in the long-term. Make sure that you're getting good quality sleep, as not doing so can cause your mood to shift. Also, avoid drinking alcohol and make sure that you take your medication as prescribed, as this can help to manage your outbursts.

You may also want to look into cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which can help people with bipolar disorder to understand and manage their intense emotions more effectively. Taking place in both one-to-one and group settings, this therapy can provide you with tools that you can use to decrease the intensity of your moods and put a stop to any unhealthy coping strategies.

How to deal with someone who's bipolar and angry

When you're living with someone who has bipolar disorder, it's likely that you'll witness anger. It can be intense and unexpected, and can be caused by a comment or question that wasn’t intended to incite such emotion.

It's important to learn how to support the person you care about so that you're able to help them manage the extreme anger they experience.

Some strategies to think about include the following:

  • Be aware of triggers – work with the person to understand their triggers, and what helps them to remain calm and stable. Work as a pair to put a strategy together that outlines what you'll both do when they're triggered. For example, you may decide to engage in a distraction together, such as exercising, painting or doing chores. Make sure you have this conversation when they're composed and not emotional
  • Try not to take their anger personally – remember that the anger they express is likely to be caused by their bipolar disorder, and they're not angry at something you've said or done
  • Get support for both of you – when you're living with someone who has bipolar disorder, it's important for you to have your own support system. You may want to join a support group, where you can talk to others who are going through similar situations. It's also important for you to spend time with your family and friends – you need to feel cared for too

Accessing treatment and support

It's important for someone with bipolar disorder to engage with the right treatment. At Priory, we work with people on both an outpatient and inpatient basis to help them manage their symptoms and reduce the intensity of any future episodes. We also work with family and friends to make sure that everyone is fully supported.

Blog reviewed by Dr Samir Shah, Medical Director of Priory Hospital Altrincham.

Contact us for help, referrals or more information

Call Us
Tap on a number to call