Anger Is Not a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder, Or Is It?
If you search the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you will see that anger is not a symptom of bipolar disorder. If you search the International Classification of Diseases manual (maintained by the World Health Organization) you will see that anger is not a symptom of bipolar disorder. It doesn’t appear to be recognized, or even proposed, that a symptom of bipolar disorder is anger.
The trouble with this seems to be that many people do experience anger, irritation and aggression as symptoms of their bipolar disorder. I am one of those people.
Anger Is Not a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder?
As I said, anger is not, in any way, a recognized symptom of bipolar disorder, but in my experience, and in the experience of many others, anger seems to be associated with bipolar disorder. In my case, I find myself full of anger, hatred and irritation so much of the time it’s astounding. And they are not my “normal” states. I’m actually quite a positive person naturally. These states are atop my normal. I can feel it.
But that doesn’t mean that the feelings of anger, irritation and hatred of everything are any less real. (I don’t experience aggressiveness.)
I’m Not Angry With Anyone or at Anything
Let’s be clear, when I say I’m angry, irritated and hateful, these feelings are not related to anyone, anything or any experience, they are just feelings popping out from nowhere. This is particularly distressing to me because if you’re angry at a situation or at a person, you can deal with that feeling and move past it but when you’re angry at nothing, there is nothing to resolve and so the feeling smothers you like a fire blanket indefinitely.
I Don’t Take My Bipolar Anger Out on People
One of the most common things I hear from loved ones of people with bipolar disorder is that people with bipolar are very angry and lash out at others and have rages. I do not do this. I may feel angry, but I have great control over my actions and do not take this feeling out on others. And I believe, just because it may be because of my bipolar, that doesn’t give me any right to be angry at others for a disease that distinctly isn’t their fault. It’s up to me to find a way to deal with this anger on my own in a way that doesn’t hurt others.
Is Bipolar Anger a Medication Side Effect?
Now, it is possible that the reason that anger is not recognized as a symptom of bipolar disorder is because it, indeed, is not a symptom of bipolar disorder and is, instead, a side effect from bipolar medication. I have no way of proving this to be true or false, so I’m just throwing it out there. I will say that my bipolar anger has developed over many years, and wasn’t there initially, so it’s quite possible that it is related to the medication that I take. (And I have noticed that some medications can make me unabashedly angry and irritated; I’ve gotten off of those medications for that reason.)
It Doesn’t Matter Why You Have Bipolar Anger; It Matters What You Do with It
I do believe, also, that many people are angry at bipolar disorder in general. People are angry at being sick. People are angry they have to take medication. People are, quite reasonably, angry at having to deal with all the pain and suffering that comes from this disease.
But no matter why you’re angry, and no matter if it really is a symptom of bipolar disorder, what matters is that you don’t take that anger out on other people. Rages aren’t okay even if that anger is being driven by an illness. Taking your anger out on others is not helpful for your relationships, is not healthy and hurts people. You need to recognize the anger within yourself and learn to deal with it in a less harmful way.
Sometimes this means a medication adjustment (yes, this can help) so talk to your doctor about your anger and don’t hide it from him or her. Sometimes this can mean gaining new coping skills to deal with your strong emotions like learning about cognitive behavioral therapy. And sometimes this means delving into other reasons that may be making your angry, perhaps with the help of therapist.
No matter what you choose to do, one thing I know for sure is that you don’t want to let anger control your life or your interactions with others because that will hurt them and, ultimately, you.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.