Why Are People with Bipolar So Angry?

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,

Michele

13 Responses to “Why Are People with Bipolar So Angry?”

  1. Michelle says:

    Wow! You hit it right on the head with the “lack of control” bit. It does make me angry that I had no say in this, and that sometimes it controls my life instead of the other way around. I’m totally OCD and have to feel like I call the shots. Bipolar episodes are scary for me because I know that I’m not in control of the situation as much as I’d like to be. The best I can do is keep track of my stressors that are my triggers.

    Of course, that’s easier said than done lately. It’s harder when I’m exhausted to stay calm and not flip out or get really depressed. The nursing is going so well that I haven’t gone back on meds yet, because they aren’t that well researched on effects for nursing babies and the ones that are seem to be more harmful. When I had the last mini-episode, it was hard not to be angry at my son because his nursing was preventing me from taking meds. Luckily, I still have my fantastic support system, and a husband who does more than just take out the trash for me. And who is amazingly patient when I do get angry about all the crap I can’t deal with right now.

  2. Sherry says:

    I have dealt with depression since I was 22 and I am now 44. I’m not sure if I had some form of depression when I was a kid through about age 22. I understand that tramatic experiences can trigger Bi-Polar. I was finally diagnosed in 2006. Before that I had a diagnosis of depression only. It was my fault that it was not diagnosed before then out of embarrasement of my actions (anger that led to fighting, etc). I think that their is a really good chance that I could have landed myself in jail if I had not been diagnosed when I was(because of the fighting with my family). I am at the point that I think some times if I just let go of the past hurts and disapointments I would feel much much better. The only problem with that is that I don’t know how. I feel better when thinking about that from my heart. I also feel that it may not happen because I just continually have strong anxiety and added stress from my normal day or abnormal day of stress with my family and all. Very true what bipolar takes from our lives. Your right unless people walk a mile in our shoes then they have not idea and it would be niice if they kept their opinion to them self.

  3. Jane says:

    “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.”
    I thank you for writing this blog, but this part really hit home with me. I have been telling friends I cannot make concrete plans; it has to be spontaneous on my end because I cannot tell from one day to the next how I will be feeling. I gives me a certain validation to what I feel and what I have to say to others, when I read that part of your blog.
    I get angry for not having the “normal” life I had when I was hypo manic. At those times I was sociable, could hold a job and do 120%, didn’t need much sleep, but accomplished much. It seemed nothing really scared me or scared me away. I took in every moment of the day, and found joy in so much. I took care of the house and yard better. Now, I feel like I am a walking “schedule”, and if I am off of it, I feel like I am fragile on a tightrope and if I fall, I’ll break into pieces.
    When I remember that all I need to do is look at Today, things that seem scattered fall into place better.
    Thanks again for your service to the BiP community.

  4. Mary says:

    If you are on medication you shouldn’t be having extreme ups and downs. If they are daily ups and downs that seem to occur as a result of occurrences that happen around you, your “episodes” are what the rest of the population call “feelings.”

    Lastly, you do not have to be a “control freak” to be upset with having a disease.

    Yes, I am a bipolar survivor and your posts made me very angry.

  5. Jules says:

    Hi Michele
    This paragraph hit home for me:
    “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.”

    I recently had a very emotionally charged and heated discussion with my 24 yr old daughter regarding her childhood; telling me how she was scared of me and that I seemed to be always shouting at her and forever angry. We both cried alot and I am grateful that at the end of all this she wants to build a better relationship with me, not looking back but forward with forgivness, and most importantly, she still loves me.
    Back during her growing up I only had a diagnosis of depression though I feel I was bipolar as a child. My Psych Dr. told me that research done in the last few years, anti-depressants are the worst thing a person with B.P. can take as the depression cycle in B.P. is radically different from that in clinical depression, and they can cause increased episodes and do nothing to manage the highs. Great. I spent and wasted over 20 years on these meds with the B.P. roller-coaster doing it’s worst, feeling totally out of control, wierd, crazy, not human at times.
    So that was me then, undiagnosed, angry, hyper and often depressed. In my ‘warped’ mind I thought I had been a good parent but now to realise I damaged my child’s spirit being this undiagnosed ‘monster’ I am unable to forgive myself …yet. Sure, I am ‘medicated’ now- a person living in blah land where the sun never seems to shine for long and I am always waiting for the rain to fall on me.
    Still I feel the anger and loss, at least on the inside. Like you I mourn the life I would have had if only someone would have realised that my behaviour was that of someone with B.P. and not because I had been through a very challenging set of circumstances in my childhood. What a wasted life.
    Yes, I need to live for today and not in the past and yes, being undiagnosed I was not fully in control of my actions and must find it in my heart to begin healing from that past. But all this is now a shadow that hangs over me constantly. I find myself frightened to venture forth in life and to make friendships just in case I should ‘flip-out’ again. I walk on egg shells now each time I speak with my daughter in case I say or do the wrong thing, act bipolar around her, ever.
    I find it interesting to note that quite a few of us B.P.ers isolate ourselves, keep others at arms length. Is it that we have had the trust knocked out of us by having this condition? Trust of ourselves being able to sustain a regular reltaionship of any kind? Trust of others should we be rejected once again and then hurt again?
    And now I have a physical disability on top of all this…another demon to wrestle with.
    My psych doc says I am stable so isn’t that great? Yeh, right. Now if he could only prescribe a life time do-over for me then it would be great indeed.
    Thanks for your blog which does help me to cope at times.

  6. melissa says:

    I was so relieved to be able to have a better understanding of bipolar disorder and that most people were always mad i thought maybe it was all different emotions but i am mostly mad and then go into my down moods because i sometimes say or do something towards others because i become so infuriated but i love michele’s saying and plan to use this to help me through the hard times i also plan to write more on here and learn more about my illness thanks for all the support i am also pregnant and have stopped my bipolar meds so hopefully i will get help some way soon by my obgyn

  7. Ashley Anderson says:

    & thank you Michelle for showing me that I’m not alone in my battle too.

  8. stan says:

    Living in the answer….loved it.Will rember that one.stan

  9. Andy says:

    You sound like such a victim in this post. There are people that have diseases that are much more debilitating than bipolar disorder.
    Many people with bipolar disorder have achieved extraordinary things. For example, Steve Jobs said that he thought he may have had it.
    Anyways, I am not saying that bipolar disorder is an easy thing to deal with. I am saying not to blame it for all of your failures in life. In other words, don´t play the victim.

  10. Sara says:

    I came here because I think I have bipolar, but I will refuse to be put on meds, however, my anger tonight was horrendous. I smashed a plate because I cant take any more of my noisy neighbours. A few moths ago I caused a scene at a funeral wake then went missing for the night much to the horror of my family. About a year go I smashed my door in as I lost my key. these things are totally out of character for me at the times they happen. Over the years I have also done some pretty out of character stuff.

    When I’m in normal stage I am the best person ever, when im manic im very charasmatic, but when im down i cant speak with people and find social situations very hard to deal with.

    A few years ago when I smashed my front room up I decided that exircise could help, and it really really did.

    I guess its the answer for me again as im getting very close to the edge and the bipolar seems to worsten as years go by, either that or i am more ashamed of it.

    Thanks for sharing your blog michelle, and for anyone else reading, try exircise before meds.

  11. Lindy says:

    I agree with the writer who mentioned about not playing the victim. Also, I have been on the wrong end of a bi-polar sufferer who I had tried to help numerous times only to get ‘kicked in the teeth’. I was used, manipulated and lied to. I don’t avoid bi-polar sufferers through ignorance and fear. I avoid them because they can be really selfish, abusive and painful to be around.

  12. Jim says:

    Michele, a lot of what you said really resonated with me, especially the “dragon” part. I call mine “the witch”. I found your advice more helpful than my psychotherapist. Thank you.

  13. Kent Saxton says:

    Relious believes can coarse anger and frustration if one believes it and one oposes it.Theres some good reading though.Yes thats right, write your problems down.thats will get rid of anger. K.S

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