If you live with bipolar disorder you have experienced irritability. It is that feeling like sandpaper on our brain. Everything bugs us. No one else can say the right thing. Often times this irritability is associated with mania. Little sleep can put us on edge. We become prickly porcupines.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or (DSM) states that “This group (bipolar disorder) is characterized by elation or irritability and over- talkativeness, flight of ideas and increased motor activity). The psychiatric community uses the DSM as their Bible to label and understand certain mental illnesses. We are now on the DSM-V, which still states a very similar definition. Seventy three percent of us with bipolar disorder have claimed to have experienced irritability.
For some of us, irritability can be a precursor to a mood shift, such as mania or depression. Bp magazine interviewed doctor Lewis Judd who said, “Irritability goes hand in hand with mania,” says Lewis Judd, MD, a psychiatry professor at University of California–San Diego. Judd’s research also highlights the prevalence of irritability and anger in depression. “Although every individual with bipolar goes into mania differently,” Judd notes, he has patients who’ve come to understand that it’s a red flag when things that don’t usually bother them begin to bug them a lot.
Irritability can easily damage relationships. No one likes to be around a moody witch. Try and think before reacting to others. Some of us meditate so when we find ourselves in a moment where we might snap, we can calm our bipolar mind. And perhaps the best thing to do is to stay home where we can’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Take a bath, try and relax.
The next step up from bipolar irritability is bipolar rage. I know this well. I once threw my phone at my windshield of the car and cracked it – the windshield and the phone. I can’t count the number of glasses I have thrown on the floor, shattering them to pieces in sheer rage. During both the manic phase and the depressive state, there may be angry outbursts of rage. This is characteristic of bipolar disorder.
Some of us find ourselves screaming at the ones we love. Relationships are strained and, once again, no one wants to be around someone who verbally abuses them. That just isn’t cool.
The US National Library of Medicine/ National Institutes of Health did a study to find out if bipolar disorder had a link to aggression. Their conclusion was subjects with bipolar were more likely to display anger and aggression than those without the mood disorder. It was advised this be identified and managed.
For some people it is the chemical imbalance in the brain that fuels the fire, others even see this chemical imbalance, our irritability and rage, as personality flaws. Rage is often directed at things and other people – slamming doors, breaking things (like my kictchen glassware, for example), hitting walls. We hurt people by yelling and screaming at them. Road rage also occurs, unfortunately and dangerously. We can find ourselves breaking the law and winding up in jail. This happened to an acquaintance of mine who now works with the police humanize the mentally ill during rage and confusion.
The thing to do is to try to understand where this rage is coming from and if it is warranted. So we burned dinner, order pizza and cool our jets. Never get in a position that puts ourselves or anyone else in danger. Whether it is irritability or rage remember that we live with bipolar disorder, a mental illness, and sometime the chemicals in our brain turn on us.