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Bipolar Disorder, Irritability, and Anger

Don't, just don' puts it very nicely: “Anger, rage, and irritability has long been overshadowed by mania and sadness in discussions of bipolar disorder.”


Indeed, it is one of the most misunderstood components of bipolar illness.

Many people living with bipolar disorder deal with anger and irritability, and they are often very embarrassed by it.

Being out of control is an uncomfortable place to be, and it can have lasting repercussions.

How many of us with bipolar disorder have said something to a loved one out of anger that we regret?

How many of us wish we could control our anger and irritability better?

The Onset of Anger

Some people diagnosed with bipolar illness start exhibiting angry outbursts and behavior during their teen years.

During this time, parents may attribute this to “teenage angst” (as in my case).

How Anger Consumes

By the time I was a freshman in college, I was quite explosive when I wasn’t feeling well—harassing and screaming at my family and whichever boyfriend I had at the time.

I could even become violent.

My boyfriends, especially, were shocked when they experienced this behavior.

When we started dating, I was usually on a happy, manic high—flirtatious and pleasant.

Inevitably, when my mood dipped again, I became jealous, enraged, and rude—and the relationship ended.

One of the subjects of the BP Hope article says that her anger is “so volatile, so scary, I could have killed someone.”

She currently takes medication and attends therapy, which helps these symptoms greatly.

She also mentions she does still have moments of rage and anger.

This may be an extreme case, but it reflects what some people with bipolar anger are dealing with.

It can be a lonely place, to be so angry and enraged.

Sometimes, it’s as if someone has hijacked my body.

Later, you have to pick up the pieces.

You are shocked at yourself.


As I mentioned, medications can help greatly.

Mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants can all help people with bipolar disorder control their emotions and make better choices.

Shortly after those explosive days in college, I was put in a psychiatric hospital and my medications were altered greatly.

The anger dissipated greatly.

Nowadays, I might get irritable or angry, sure—but the difference lies in being on the right medication and engaging in counseling and therapy.

We will all get upset, but the degree of the intensity needs to be at a minimum.

My treatment makes this possible.

Important Things to Know

Psychiatric experts hope to understand which comes first—the anger and irritability, or the disorder.

However, men and women with bipolar disorder need something tangible right now to help them turn the corner and learn to control their irritability and anger.

Of course, removing yourself from the situation is a great way to end an argument and/or prevent yourself from saying something or doing something you will later regret.

The same thing applies with emails: Step away from the keyboard until you calm down.

Sometimes, people with intense rage feel as if they can’t remove themselves from the situation while it is happening—they want to engage in the negativity.

If this is you, you definitely want to talk to your doctor about your anger. You may explore your current medication regimen and make changes, or you may alter your therapy treatment plan to incorporate anger management and relaxation techniques.

If you are struggling with your anger, speak up.

You will benefit, and so will the people around you.

It must be known, though, that having bipolar doesn’t mean you are automatically an intense and angry person, and having an angry temperament isn’t automatically a product of having bipolar disorder.

Everyone has the ability to be angry and make the wrong decisions, and statistics show that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.

No matter whether you have bipolar disorder or not, seeking help for anger that feels out of control is essential to your health and well-being.


Do you have bipolar and experience angry outbursts and/or irritability?


Photo Credit: Holly Levey via Compfight

Thanks to BP Hope for their information.

Bipolar Disorder, Irritability, and Anger

Kat Dawkins

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APA Reference
Dawkins, K. (2013). Bipolar Disorder, Irritability, and Anger. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Nov 2013
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