Bipolar Anger: How to Identify It and Ways to Cope

Bipolar Disorder
Read Time: 9 Minutes
Written by:Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Published On: June 10, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD

Reviewed On: June 10, 2022

Updated On: November 2, 2023


Bipolar anger and rage can be common symptoms for people living with bipolar disorder. Not everyone will experience these intense emotional states, but for those who do, it makes this mental health condition even more challenging to navigate.

The mental health disorder known as bipolar, causes wide-spanning shifts in mood and energy, and various symptoms are possible. Bipolar episodes will swing from extreme highs (manic episodes) to very low depressive states. When either of these episodes are coupled with rage, it can be devastating.

iconExpert Insight

“People diagnosed with bipolar disorder can experience anger during a manic or depressive episode. There is no distinction between the two.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

If you or a loved one lives with bipolar disorder and experiences intense emotions stemming from anger or rage, keep reading to learn more. We’ll give you the tools you need to be able to manage symptoms, cope with bipolar anger, and ultimately learn to live a happier, calmer life.

The Relationship Between Bipolar Disorder & Anger

Bipolar disorder is characterized by frequent mood cycles, fluxing between mania and depression. While anger isn’t always present, people with this frustrating condition may find they quickly experience angry outbursts when they feel agitated, irritated, or annoyed.

They may feel helpless, like life cheated them, making them different from everybody else, forcing them to face challenges that others are able to avoid.

iconExpert Insight

“People diagnosed with bipolar disorder tend to experience mood swings, with one of the most common moods being anger. Taking the proper medication can help decrease emotional issues and help the person feel better.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

Whether you have bipolar disorder or not, anger and rage are valid emotions. However, the behaviors that can result from uncontrolled anger and rage will negatively impact your social life, self-esteem, and the happiness of the people closest to you.

Bipolar anger can be mild, or it can evolve into bipolar rage if not recognized and managed effectively. Often, there’s no discernible trigger. Some days, someone with bipolar disorder might just wake up feeling mad at the world. Other times, they may feel particularly sensitive to something happening to or around them and find themselves growing angrier by the minute.

iconExpert Insight

“Irritability is prevalent in people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, affecting their family and friends. It’s essential to be under the care of a medical or mental health professional to treat this symptom.”
Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Supervisor (LCSW-S), CIMHP, EMDR Cynthia Catchings

Is anger a symptom of bipolar disorder?

Anger isn’t technically a bipolar disorder symptom, but much research has linked anger to the condition. Research done in 2012 and 2014 discovered that there is a greater existence of aggression in people with bipolar disorder than in those without.

According to researchers at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, the majority of people with bipolar disorder do experience rage and angry outbursts. Their research found that “anger attacks were present in 62.5% of subjects with recurrent depression…compared to 54.5% in subjects with bipolar depression…, but the difference between the groups was not statistically significant.”

In that study, researchers found that 34% of people with bipolar disorder show signs of extreme irritability and agitation. Anger was equally seen in bipolar and unipolar depression, was not influenced by any clinical or sociodemographic variables, and overwhelmingly led to decreased quality of life in both groups of subjects.

Understanding the mood swings

According to scientists at the University of Barcelona, bipolar disorder is a chronic, life-long condition where some people experience anger and rage regularly, while others rarely, if ever, do.

It’s understandable that some people with bipolar disorder can get angry. However, they’re still responsible for their own behavior and for how they treat others.

Anyone with bipolar disorder who experiences rage or uncontrollable anger must learn how to manage the emotions that come from their condition. With treatment, they can begin to understand why they might experience rapid-onset mood swings. They can learn to cope with any bipolar disorder symptom involving anger or rage.

What is Bipolar Rage?

Rage is marked by often-spontaneous, uncontrolled expressions of extreme anger, but is rage part of bipolar? As we’ve established, it can be but isn’t always.

Irritability is common in hypomanic and manic episodes. We’re discovering, though, that there also seems to be a sense of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness seen in depressive episodes that can lead to anger and rage as well.

We all get angry from time to time — it’s a natural human emotion. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to become so angry that you’re raging. This is why it’s essential for anyone with bipolar disorder who feels excessively angry to begin developing effective anger management strategies. Uncontrolled bipolar anger can evolve into rage, causing acts of unexpected aggression and furious outbursts.

What is bipolar rage like?

Bipolar rage can be explosive, brutal, and very damaging if not managed. It often feels like it can’t be predicted, stabilized, or controlled until it runs its course and self-resolves.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), bipolar rage doesn’t necessarily always (or need to) have a trigger. It can, and often does, show up without any reason or warning. It’s important to keep in mind that someone with bipolar disorder doesn’t choose to lose control or go into a rage. In fact, they’re generally desperately seeking control, which makes their rage even more chaos-inducing.

The ADAA reports that people with bipolar rage typically experience several common symptoms, including:

  • Chest tightness
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Twitching
  • Uncontrollable anger that can last for up to an hour

Bipolar rage may or may not involve physical violence. Some people who become physically violent during a rage episode report a sense of relief and pleasure, followed by intense feelings of remorse and sorrow.

How to Manage Bipolar Rage and Anger

Every person deserves to enjoy their life. Bipolar anger and bipolar rage are complicated emotions to try and manage and navigate. However, when it comes to how to treat bipolar disorder as well as how to deal with bipolar disorder, there are several effective methods available. These treatment methods can reduce the frequency of episodes, so it can be possible to enjoy life more and develop deeper, rewarding interpersonal relationships.

If you have bipolar disorder and are prone to fits of anger or rage, consider the following action tips from Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CFTP:

  • Sit down, collect your thoughts, and ask yourself what is triggering your anger or rage. Remind yourself that you’re in control. You don’t have to stay in your anger right now if it does not fit the facts of your situation. Practice intentionally analyzing yourself and your behaviors.
  • Talk to a medical or mental health professional and be open about your mood changes. They will know how to understand and help you.
  • See yourself as a member of the world community. Understand that it’s important to engage in helpful, healthy behaviors that benefit others and ourselves. Whether or not someone has bipolar disorder, peacefulness is integral to life.
  • Practice mindfulness activities like meditation, journaling etc. If that doesn’t help, see a professional to talk about treatment including medication.
  • Remove yourself from a situation if you sense yourself developing anger or feel that you may be about to rage. Get up. Take a walk. Breathe some fresh air. Collect your thoughts. Remind yourself that anger and rage are not welcome in your life and that you’re developing happiness and self-control.
  • Keep track of your moods. You can have a journal, an app, or a calendar where you can enter and monitor at the end of the week or month. This can help when you visit your medical professional.

How to Cope with a Loved One with Bipolar Anger

If you want to learn how to help someone with bipolar disorder, the first thing to know is that you’re doing the best you can. Loving someone with this condition means being willing to face an array of challenges and obstacles that can be incredibly difficult. It’s important to acknowledge just how taxing this relationship is on you. Then, you can focus on remaining patient when you face challenges like bipolar anger or rage.

The following tips can help you maintain the best relationship possible with your loved one who has bipolar anger:

  • Be patient, but do not be a martyr. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder need your understanding and respect, but it must be mutual.
  • Ensure they take responsibility. Those with bipolar disorder must still be responsible for their actions. Be firm, but loving.
  • Talk to a mental health professional to get more information about the diagnosis.
  • Focus on enhancing communication skills. Many times, people with bipolar disorder are living with guilt, shame, and a sense of worthlessness that makes them feel unable to communicate openly. They may feel that expressing themselves only magnifies what they perceive as their inferiority. Let your loved one know that you have faith in them and their ability to effectively manage their bipolar symptoms.
  • Look for credible information online or look for a support group online or in person in your area.
  • Develop an action plan with your loved one who has bipolar disorder to use in case anger or rage becomes an issue. Write it down on paper and place it somewhere noticeable. This plan should include initial steps to intervene in the anger process, gain control over the situation, and initiate techniques to encourage calmness and self-control.

What Happens Next

s rage part of bipolar? Bipolar anger and rage are not prerequisite symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, unmanaged irritability can lead to anger, which can lead to rage. The keys to managing anger and rage for anyone, regardless of whether they have bipolar disorder or not, are awareness and intention. We’re all responsible for our actions, and we must all be able to control intense emotions, regardless of where they stem from.

Remember, there is hope. The symptoms of bipolar disorder — even rage — can often be effectively managed so maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships is possible. Long-term management techniques, including finding the proper medication, engaging in routine therapy for bipolar disorder, and practicing various self care techniques, will enhance every aspect of life.

Talkspace offers online therapy that’s different from what you might be used to. Our approach to mental health care starts with online, affordable, effective, convenient therapy sessions with qualified, experienced therapists who understand that you need help, now.

Learn more about how Talkspace can make therapy easy and accessible, so you can get bipolar rage under control and live your best life possible. Whether it’s you who has it, or a loved one, bipolar anger doesn’t have to control your life and relationships.

See References

Cynthia Catchings

Cynthia Catchings is a trilingual licensed clinical social worker-supervisor, mental health consultant, professor, and trainer for federal law enforcement agencies. Cynthia has over 15 years of experience in the mental health profession. She is passionate about women’s mental health, life transitions, and stress management. Her clinical work, advocacy, and volunteer service have focused on working with domestic violence survivors and conducting mental health research in over 30 countries.

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