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The Difference Between Anger and ‘Bipolar Anger’

The Difference Between Anger and ‘Bipolar Anger’

The majority of people with bipolar disorder have experienced ‘bipolar anger,’ a level of rage outside the ‘normal’ range. But, what exactly is it?

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Understanding Anger in Bipolar Disorder

There are many types of anger associated with bipolar disorder. But putting aside stereotypes is difficult.

Not every single angry episode can be attributed to a brain-based health condition. Just as people who like football have varying degrees of fandom — some paint their faces and attend every game, while others listen on the radio while they mow the lawn — anger is the same way.

That said, the majority of people with bipolar disorder have experienced “bipolar anger,” a level of rage and hostility outside of the “normal” range. But, what exactly is “bipolar anger”?

The Difference Between Anger and ‘Bipolar Anger’

Everyone gets angry. Anger is a normal human emotion and one that serves a valuable purpose. As an example, anger triggers the fight-or-flight response, which can help a person survive danger. During the fight-or-flight response, a person will automatically respond to a threat without conscious thought.

Much like bipolar disorder, anger exists on a spectrum. From annoyed to enraged, all intensities of anger exist, to some extent, in the typical person. Anger, in and of itself, is not an issue.

Bipolar anger, on the other hand, is a different animal entirely. Appropriate anger has a general cause and a clear way to defuse it. Using the fight-or-flight example above, once the danger has been removed, the anger will begin to dissipate.

When the cause of the anger is due to the symptoms of bipolar disorder, there’s no clear reason for the anger and no clear way to defuse it.

In other words, since a person isn’t sure what the danger is, they won’t know when they have successfully fought it or escaped it.

The intensity of the anger can only escalate as a person becomes more and more desperate to defend themselves. At this point, the anger becomes uncontrollable and can be dangerous to the person and to those around them.

You can replace “danger” with “cause” and the person will be in a similar position. Since they don’t know what is causing their anger, they can’t resolve it. Finally, it’s possible that what is angering a person has been distorted or “imagined” entirely. Since the anger isn’t based on something concrete, the path to resolution becomes very unclear.

Why Bipolar Anger Needs to Be Taken Seriously

Like it or not, anger can be a symptom of bipolar disorder. Just like depression and mania, anger is relatively common. In my opinion, it’s one of the most destructive symptoms, as it relates to interacting with other people, especially friends and family.

Many people with bipolar disorder describe a feeling of abandonment by loved ones. This is an excellent example of how anger can be a very destructive symptom.

Whether the anger pushes a person away or we’re angry at someone who isn’t as prominent in our lives as we’d like, anger can rot a person from the inside out.

Ignoring anger is foolish for anyone, but it’s especially foolish for someone with bipolar disorder, given what’s at stake. Unchecked anger can lead to self-harm, irreparable damage in close relationships, and, in rare cases, violence.

Managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder is a full-time job and part of that job is to take an honest assessment of all symptoms, even the taboo ones. From hypersexuality to suicidal thoughts to uncontrollable anger, pretending that a symptom doesn’t exist often leads to devastating consequences for everyone involved.

You can’t flee any of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, so your only choice is to fight these symptoms. 

UPDATED: Originally posted August 11, 2015

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