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Bipolar Depression and Anger: What Can I Do About It?

Bipolar depression and anger often go hand-in-hand. Discover how to minimize its impact on HealthyPlace.

Bipolar depression and anger are more common than you might think; combined, they can have a devastating impact on your life and relationships. People with bipolar disorder often describe feeling irritable, getting irate over nothing, or blowing up completely over the smallest things. Others experience rage and violent impulses, which can put themselves and other people at risk. Everyone has the capacity for rage and anger, but it can be more extreme in bipolar depression. Learn more about bipolar depression and anger, and how you can control unwanted outbursts.

Bipolar Depression and Anger: What’s the Connection?

Bipolar depression and anger often go hand-in-hand, and many doctors see anger or extreme irritability as a hallmark symptom of bipolar depression. Anger in bipolar disorder can occur due to chemical shifts in the brain, hormonal imbalances that contribute to the disorder, or the emotional strain of living with bipolar. Dealing with a chronic and sometimes debilitating mental illness can make you feel like life isn’t fair. Anger can be a healthy expression of those emotions, but it can also be destructive.

We’re not just talking about physical anger here. Anger isn’t always obvious. It may present itself as an outburst or even a verbal or physical attack on another person, or it may manifest in irritability and silence. Many people don’t know that anger is a symptom of bipolar disorder and so they feel guilty and ashamed of their feelings, even if they don’t act on them.

Anger in any form can cause people to withdraw from social events and loved ones, but it can also pre-empt other serious issues such as violence, emotional abuse, and self-harm – therefore it should not be taken lightly. If you have bipolar disorder and anger is a symptom, you should consult your doctor immediately.

Anger As a Symptom of Bipolar Depression: What Can You Do?

Here are some of the things you can do to minimize anger as a symptom of bipolar disorder:

  1. Understand the cause

    The first thing you need to recognize is that anger isn't always a sign of bipolar depression – it can also be symptomatic of a manic or hypomanic episode in bipolar disorder, which may be treated differently. The majority of people with bipolar disorder know whether they’re manic or depressed, but in people who experience rapid cycling, less extreme highs and lows (as experienced in cyclothymia – a milder form of bipolar disorder) or mixed states (experiencing symptoms of mania or hypomania and depression simultaneously), the distinction isn’t so clear.

    If you're experiencing anger as a symptom of bipolar depression, you should track your moods and symptoms so that you can consult your doctor. You may be asked if there are any specific triggers to your feelings of anger, or in general, triggers to your bipolar depression overall.
     
  2. Know that anger isn’t always bad

    In dialectical behavioral therapy (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy often used to treat bipolar disorder), patients are reminded that anger isn’t always bad – it can be a perfectly healthy emotion. Anger drives us forward and motivates us to change. It helps us call out injustices in the world and try to put them right.

    However, to be a positive force, anger must be controlled and managed. This may mean finding healthy coping mechanisms for when anger strikes (such as going for a walk or exercising), engaging your brain in calm activities or seeking treatment from your doctor.
     
  3. Seek therapy

    If you think you have a problem with bipolar depression and anger, you should seek advice from your doctor about what kinds of therapy might help. Physical exercise (such as kickboxing or cardio workouts) can help you channel the physical impulses anger creates, while talking therapy can help you get to the root of your anger and help you find healthy outlets. If anger is having a severe impact on your life, your doctor may look at adjusting your medication.

    It’s important to remember that everyone has the capacity for rage, and that anger isn’t necessarily a sign of bipolar disorder – nor does having bipolar disorder mean you will experience anger as a symptom. Anger can be incredibly unbalancing, and it can have a serious effect on the lives of people living with bipolar disorder, so you should always consult your doctor if you experience the symptoms described in this article.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2019, April 29). Bipolar Depression and Anger: What Can I Do About It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-depression/bipolar-depression-and-anger-what-can-i-do-about-it

Last Updated: June 1, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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