What Is Bipolar Anger? An Insider’s Perspective on Rage

How bipolar anger differs from other anger.

Right now I could break something. Whether it be the pen in my hand or the mirror across the room, something needs to be destroyed. Bipolar anger says it must be done.

Does that sound familiar to you? Maybe you didn’t have the immediate desire to break something, but have you ever had a time when you were suddenly and inexplicably angry? Might it even have been described as rage?

This post will look at what Bipolar anger and rage are really like. The next post will discuss five things you can do to help you snap out of it. First, though, let’s talk about the emotion of anger and where it comes from.

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What Is Bipolar Anger?

Everyone gets upset from time to time. It’s a simple fact of life. The cause might be the idiot that just cut you off on the highway or the vending machine that ate your money and gave you nothing in return.

There are many good reasons to be upset. As we become adults, we learn that disappointments and frustrations will come and that we need to learn how to deal with them.

Bipolar anger, on the other hand, is a very different animal. While most anger has a cause and effect formula, the Bipolar kind often comes on with no warning and with no recognizable trigger.

What Is Bipolar Rage?

Sometimes the oncoming emotion is so intense, so completely overwhelming, that it has to be described as something more. This is Bipolar rage.

As a way of an illustration, you can think of Bipolar anger and an upset housecat. Perhaps the poor kitty has just gotten his tail stepped on or had a menacing dog come too close.

Bipolar rage, on the other hand, would be more like being a hungry lion and someone has just tried to drag your last and only food source away. There will be blood.

For me, bipolar rage typically includes the need to break or destroy something, drive very fast, or berate someone verbally. It’s a very ugly beast and usually one I feel like I’m only watching, helpless to control its actions.

What is Bipolar anger like for the patient? What's the difference between anger and rage? Read this post from a mental illness warrior. | #bipolar #mentalillness #SpeakingBipolar #anger
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Mania or Depression?

Many people say that this type of anger is part of the manic cycle. Others will tell you that it’s part of depression. I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t say one way or the other. I have debated the topic many times, but even among other bipolar patients, there doesn’t seem to be any agreement.

For the sake of argument, I am going to say that Bipolar rage is part of mania. There are two reasons I think this way.

First, when I am dealing with Bipolar Depression, it is very hard for me to do much of anything at all. If getting out of bed or taking a shower seems too daunting, it’s hard to imagine that the desire to break things would be part of that depression.

Second, in my experience, Bipolar rage always comes after a period, usually an extended amount of time, where I have been manic.

The most intense rage, the kind where I might destroy physical property or lash out verbally at others, tends to follow long periods of mania, especially those where I’ve had little or no sleep.

The above describes where I am today, though I have grown to the point that I rarely destroy property or verbally abuse others anymore. I have learned to keep my bipolar monster caged on days like today.

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Read more of my battle with mental illness in the series Surviving Bipolar.

Bipolar Anger Triggers

If you’re a fan of the Marvel universe – I’m personally a huge sci-fi fan – you know the triggers that cause the generally mild-tempered Bruce Banner to turn into The Incredible Hulk. Usually, there is some sort of pain inflicted or someone that Bruce cares about is in mortal danger.

True-life triggers for bipolar anger are not always so distinct. 

One of the worst times I have displayed Bipolar rage in public, I was triggered by the smallest of things – the temperature in a conference room.

Here’s the short story. I was attending a lecture from a traveling speaker. Many of those in attendance, including my parents, were 65 or older.

The speaker was a bit overweight and didn’t like to sweat. To keep himself cool, he instructed that the temperature be set at 62-degrees (16.6 C). The thermostat was locked and could not be changed for the duration of the meeting.

I was cold, but that’s not uncommon for me. With Familial Mediterranean Fever, I run a low-grade fever almost every day, but I couldn’t help but notice how uncomfortable my parents and most of the other older ones looked.

When the meeting ended, I walked back to the thermostat and noted the temperature. Seeing the number 62 displayed flung me into an instant rage. I don’t remember all of what I said, but I do know it was very ugly and unkind.

What Next?

Now that you know a little about Bipolar anger, what can you do when you are dealing with it? Click through to read the next post for five things you can do to control the beast call Bipolar Rage.

Until next time, keep fighting.

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What is Bipolar anger like for the patient? What's the difference between anger and rage? Read this post from a mental illness warrior. | #bipolar #mentalillness #SpeakingBipolar #anger
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  1. Thank you so much for sharing. I have recently acquired some new roommates with all that crazy housing and covid stuff they had to move in and while they know in the abstract that I’m bipolar they don’t actually think I’m sick. I’m currently going through a rage cycle where all I want to do is break things and yell at them for all the things rage me thinks is wrong with them so instead I’ve been keeping to myself in my room until it passes. The problem is that they keep asking me what’s wrong and acting like it’s a giant deal that I’m not happy go lucky and stop and chat at their every whim. I’ve told them I’m fine but worry that if I say anything more the words won’t stop there. I don’t want to hurt their feelings in the grand scheme of things but right now I really want to.

    1. Oh man that’s a tough one. I’ve been there and my roommate relationship exploded. It may help to tell them that there are times when taking care of your mental health means keeping to yourself. I feel for you. Keep fighting.

  2. There is a huge need for articles and information by and for people who love and support bipolar people. I feel broken and helpless by my wife’s rage and often do not have any idea how to respond. I’m sure there are many others like myself…in love, committed but increasingly battered and helpless in the face of an illness we have no idea how to cope with. It would really be helpful for this site to include articles and insights to help those of us in close relationships with bipolar people!

    1. Hi Glenn, Thank you so much for your comment. I’m sorry for the challenges you’re experiencing, but it gives me hope that you’re still there fighting for the relationship. I agree there needs to be more for those loving us with bipolar. I’ve written a few posts but clearly need to write more. Thanks again!

    2. Hi. Absolutely agree. I have been thrown into this world the past couple of weeks and in a state of shock and sorrow. My partner of 1 year started feeling low, talking about death etc a couple of weeks ago, and when visiting to check on him last week I was met with verbal abuse and anger and I have never seen in him before. I knew he was bipolar but only seen his few low periods that he seems to manage reasonably well. A week on, finally replied to a text, but still very nasty and angry. I have no idea why, what I did , and why I am on the receiving end of his anger,. Does he now hate me so much, is it over, Will he know how he has treated me when he comes out of this round. I really feel helpless on how to handle this.

      1. Hi Hannah, Thank you for your comment. I wish I had an easy answer. Those of us with bipolar often hurt the people closest to us, but the only way to know for sure what is going on is for him to tell you. Hopefully things will turn around in a few days.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! Trying to understand why I’m the target of this anger from my bipolar relative. Your words here help me understand about the need for some sort of outlet to release that anger. (Just wish I could figure out how to say *I* do not want to be that outlet)

      1. Hmm. It’s an idea! And a package she sent came today: presents for my kids just because. So now I’m wondering if she is in an “up” phase now…

          1. Please post something about the fact that when you have a mental illness is possible that you have more then one like myself. If you don’t mind. You write well.

          2. Thank you for saying that. I’m not sure what you mean about what to post, though. Do you want a post about having more than one mental illness? Or mental illness with physical illness? You can always send me an email by clicking the Contact link if that’s easier.

          3. When you are Bipolar you can have also other illnesses as I do. I am doing well except some rage but a lot less because I try to think about the Lord and thank Him for all He did for me.

          4. OK that makes sense. I’ll work on getting a post together. Don’t worry about your English. You communicate well. I just wasn’t sure as to the details. Thanks for the clarification.

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