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I had a request to write on the subject of, “Why are people with bipolar so angry?” I wish I had a single magic word answer for you, but I don’t. I can only answer for myself, as someone who has bipolar disorder.
There are many reasons to be angry if you have bipolar disorder. Mostly, I believe, the anger stems from a resentment toward having the disorder in the first place. I mean, we didn’t ask for this, we didn’t do anything to get it, and we couldn’t have done anything to prevent it – we’re just stuck with it and all that that entails. Mostly, I think it could be the whole lack of control issue.
Many of us were once people very much in control (some might even say control freaks). With the onset of bipolar disorder comes the loss of control over your emotions and your moods.
I could wake up one day and be perfectly fine, yet by that afternoon be in a bipolar episode, if I don’t do certain things to prevent that from happening.
Treatment is imperative. Medications help to stabilize those unpredictable moods. However, there are still times when I will have a “breakthrough” mini-episode, like I was talking about. I’d be in a good mood, everything going along fine, then all of a sudden I might be depressed, or even angry, for no reason that I can define.
The impulsivity angle of the disorder may have something to do with the anger as well. I mean, I’ve said and done things in a bipolar episode that are totally contrary to my character – impulsive decisions, like getting married – and then had to deal with the consequences, mostly negative ones. It’s like waking up from a bad dream.
To some people, having bipolar disorder is like living a bad dream, only worse. You can’t wake up. You can’t change what happens, and many times you’re not even aware of what is happening. That’s like when I would have hallucinations and delusions.
Part of the anger may stem from the paranoia feature of some types of bipolar disorder. Or it could be as simple as a “bad mood” that for other people might be acceptable, but for someone with bipolar disorder can stray far from controlling that anger. In that case, there are usually pretty bad consequences to pay, such as a breakdown in communication and respect (to say nothing of loving) in an interpersonal relationship.
My husband once threw a wrench at his supervisor – he was in an undiagnosed state of bipolar disorder, and he was that angry that that’s what he did. (Needless to say, the consequences of his actions were to lose his job). Other people cannot understand that degree of anger and hostility, or what we do with it once we feel it.
Why are we so angry then? Well, another reason might be that this disorder is incurable, and we have to take medication every day for the rest of our lives. We are also limited by the disorder, as in some of us can no longer even hold down a job.
I call bipolar disorder “the dragon,” to keep it as something outside myself. It’s something I can fight, and I do, with everything that is in me, I fight this disorder so that I can stay stable. But many times I get angry at the dragon, for what it has stolen from my life (sanity, a normal life, my job as a medical transcriptionist, etc.).
Other reasons for anger are frustration, anxiety, and stress. For some people, just getting out of bed is stressful. Then compound that with having to deal with stressful people and/or a stressful job, and anger can surface.
I know that I have had to train myself that when I am feeling angry, not to take it out on my husband. I mean, I usually don’t even know what I’m angry about, and it’s not fair to take it out on him (or anyone else). That’s usually when I hide in my cave, so I don’t hurt anyone or get hurt myself, like fighting with my husband (usually over nothing) would be an example of.
I’m angry that my bipolar disorder was diagnosed so late in my life (in my 40′s), when I think of how different my life would have been if I had had proper treatment in my earlier years. There has been a great cost in my life to having bipolar disorder, and I wish it weren’t that way. That’s why I encourage people to get diagnosed as soon as they can (I had my son diagnosed at 12 years old), so they can go on the right medication to keep them stable and have a better life.
I’m angry that people still do not have sympathy for people who have bipolar disorder – out of their own ignorance and fear. I sometimes still feel like an outcast from society – unacceptable, damaged goods, insane. But how can I get mad at these people when they treat me that way out of ignorance and fear? That’s why I try so hard to educate people about the disorder.
I know I get angry because of the unpredictability of this disorder. Like I was saying before, I can go from happy to depressed in a single minute, and never know what hit me. I can’t make plans like other people (unless I also make a Plan B), because I never know from day to day how this disorder is going to make me feel.
Anger is one of the reasons I am still in therapy after all these years. It’s that one emotion that is so difficult to control.
But I said all that to say this: There is a way to conquer that anger, or at least to control it. It takes a lot of self-discipline, and like what I said, therapy to learn to deal with it. And believe me, it is something you will have to deal with if you want to be stable.
Besides the Bible and prayer, this is what has helped me the most (it’s from the AA Big Book):
“When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away…Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake…unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
I keep a copy of that posted right on my computer, to remind me of what it says. It has not only helped me to control my anger and frustration, but also my depression.
It could be the answer for you as well. I hope so. Being angry takes so much out of you!
Wishing you peace and stability,
Remember God loves you and so do I,